Today’s guest blog is courtesy of Mental Health Advocate Mark Henick. Informed by his direct experience with stigma and the mental health care system as an adolescent, Mark dedicated his life from an early age to opening minds and creating change. His TEDx talk “Why We Choose Suicide” is among the most watched in the world.
Each year on September 10, people in more than 40 countries observe World Suicide Prevention Day.
WSPD is an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the World Federation for Mental Health. Millions of people around the globe hold events and have discussions to bring awareness to one of the most important and underreported facts that even we in the mental health sector sometimes fall short of communicating.
Suicide is preventable.
We shouldn’t be as shy – or scared – to say this, as we seem to be. Especially considering the reality.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 800,000 people die by suicide around the world each year. That’s more than murder and war combined.
People often find that hard to believe that suicides outnumber such things as murder and war, things that we hear about every day. Maybe that’s part of the problem. We’re constantly surrounded by messages that tell us the world is falling apart.
As the American positive psychologist Shawn Achor suggests in his popular TED Talk, when we’re immersed in this hopeless narrative, your brain starts to think that’s the accurate ratio of negative to positive in the world.
We need to look past perception, into the data, to see that’s not true. For example, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has found that we’re actually living in the most peaceful era of human history.
While it’s easy to fall victim to the terror that seems to surround us, doing so is only making us more afraid, more alone, and less safe.
The same is true in our efforts to prevent suicide, and in fact the experience of suicide itself.
As I suggest in my own TEDx Talk, we’re facing a critical necessity to counter this collapsing, suffocating perception of the world. No hope is found in that place. And that darkness only breeds more darkness.
For each completed suicide that happens in that place, there are thought to be anywhere from 10 to 25 attempts. People who are falling into that place.
The disturbing realities of suicide and suicidal attempts don’t negate the fact that suicide is preventable. Rather, this truth is made all the more urgent. People don’t have to be in that place. We can help them out.
That’s what World Suicide Prevention Day is about.
It’s about helping people to see the truth:
People are dying, they don’t have to, and we can stop it.
It’s about flipping the script and showing that there is, in fact, light in the darkness. There are people out there – myself and millions of others – who have recovered from the trauma of suicide.
It’s about using these stories of hope and recovery to help others out of their darkness, to reverse the collapse.
The International Association for Suicide Prevention uses the candle as a symbol for WSPD. At 8:00pm in every time zone, I would encourage you to light a candle and place it in your window. Let it serve as a beacon to all in the dark that there’s light. There is hope, and you can show them.
In the words of Anne Frank, “look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
If you’ve thought about or attempted suicide, or even if you’ve lost someone you love to suicide, that’s not the end of the story.
That’s the part that defined your darkness.
Now you can defy it.
Learn more about how Mark’s insights on Mental Health can help open minds and create change within your audience by checking out his speaker profile or by contacting us.