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September is Suicide Prevention Month (sometimes called Suicide Awareness Month). Throughout the month you will find articles, videos, posts, and other content related to suicide. People are sharing their stories, organizations are talking about their services, and peers are showing their support.
This is all an important step in destigmatizing suicide, depression, and suicidal thoughts and in letting those who may be struggling know they aren’t alone and that things can get better.
However, even when intentions are good, awareness months can be difficult for some and, in some cases, even triggering. I say this from personal experience.
Moreso than any other year, I’ve found this year to be particularly difficult.
As a champion for mental health and as someone who works in the mental health field, not only am I required to take part in suicide prevention, but I also want to. I’ve been open about my own struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts and I believe in the importance of these types of awareness events. This, however, doesn’t mean I’m immune from being affected.
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I have learned, actually, that maybe I’m more at risk. Because I live with depression and I’ve gone through periods where I struggled with suicidal thoughts, this month brings out memories and feelings that it may not for someone who can’t relate to the topic or stories.
So this article is for you if, like me, you are finding this month particularly difficult.
I’m not sure what was different this year, but I think burnout likely is playing a part. It hit me the strongest after I shared this post on social media and then heard of the tragic passing of a public figure on World Suicide Prevention Day.
It crept up until I was consumed with memories, thoughts, and fears. I’m doing better now, but it took its toll and has left me somewhat depleted.
I want to share some things with those who, like me, find suicide prevention month (or similar events) upsetting or triggering:
It’s okay to be affected.
I talked about this in my article about Chester Bennington; it’s important we remember that it’s okay (and even normal) to be affected in some way by conversations related to suicide. Think about it: discussions about suicide affect nearly everyone; of course they will have a greater impact on those who can directly relate.
Get extra support.
Make an extra therapy appointment, plan more social events, reach out. We don’t have to face this alone. And, just like anything else, even if others can’t relate, that doesn’t mean they can’t be there for us.
Take special care of yourself. Self-care is so important during times when you face greater stress or triggers. Slow down, take time off, meditate, engage in hobbies, listen to uplifting podcasts. Do whatever it is you need to do to support yourself.
Step back and don’t feel guilty about it.
This has been the hardest for me, especially because my work is so involved in mental health and suicide prevention. However, I still have found ways to step back over the past few days: I stopped making social media posts about it, I stopped reading posts about it, and I stayed away from any hashtags or Reddit threads. Remember: your mental health comes first.
Remember: support lines are for everyone, even us.
The thing about mental health awareness is that it’s often those who live with mental health struggles who are most active in raising awareness. This doesn’t mean, however, that advocates are any less in need of support. The same way you encourage others to call a helpline, you should encourage yourself, too. The same way you encourage others to seek out therapy, you should seek out therapy, too. And the same way you tell others to be honest about what they’re going through and reach out to those around them, you should be honest and reach out, too. Being an advocate does not mean we are immune to negative feelings or never in need of support. We are humans, too. (here are some helplines in case you need to talk)
Last and most importantly, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: depression does not have to be a fatal diagnosis.
I know during months like this, things can sometimes seem futile; for every story of hope you read, you read another ending in tragedy.
But remember: your story is your own.
Depression left untreated can be dangerous, of course, but with the right support (and following tips like the ones above), your story can be one of hope. I know from experience that even if depression is chronic, you can still learn to live with it and thrive. And so I repeat for you, for me, for everyone: depression is not a fatal diagnosis.
As a final thought:
In case you’re wondering how writing this article falls under me “stepping back” and taking care of myself, writing this article has actually made me feel significantly better. There is great power in being honest about what we’re going through and I believe a large part of what made this week so difficult for me was the fact I was keeping my feelings bottled up rather than acknowledging, accepting, and opening up about them. What feelings are you keeping bottled up? Letting them out in a way that feels supportive may be a good place to start.
Don’t forget: We’re all in this together. Take care.
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