Suicide Prevention (Before You Go)

“Before You Go” is a song by Lewis Capaldi.

At first, I just enjoyed the melody of the song.

Upon listening closer, I realized the song was about suicide prevention. I looked into what inspired him to write it and learned that he wrote it in honor of his aunt that committed suicide when he was 5 years old.

Capaldi wrote the song from the perspective of the loved ones of his aunt…as if the loved ones were writing a “pre-suicide letter” to prevent the victim from committing sucicide.

The lyrics are heavy.

Heartbreaking, but beautiful.

“So, before you go

Was there something I could’ve said to make your heart beat better?

If only I’d have known you had a storm to weather

So, before you go

Was there something I could’ve said to make it all stop hurting?

It kills me how your mind can make you feel so worthless.”

I discovered this song weeks after I submitted an essay on suicide for a law school scholarship. The research I completed to write that essay, paired with hearing this song, influenced me to write this blog post on suicide prevention.

While a heavier, darker subject than I typically write about, it is an important one.

This is the essay I wrote on suicide prevention:

Most people know someone affected by suicide. Whether it is a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, or a celebrity, the seriousness of suicide is palpable. Suicide does not only take someone’s life but forever impacts the lives of those that knew the victim. A common misconception of suicide is that it is inevitable—that if someone has the desire to commit suicide, there is no way of stopping them. However, fostering an open dialogue on suicide, educating the general public, and increasing access to medical and psychological resources can prevent suicide attempts and decrease the overall rate of suicide in the United States.

As the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, suicide is a public health issue. (1) Breaking it down by age, “suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54”. (2) In the past two decades alone the United States suicide rate has increased by 24 percent. (3) Every 12 minutes a life is lost to suicide in the United States. (4) While females are more likely to experience suicidal ideation, males are four times more likely to commit suicide. (5) Furthermore, suicide disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable in society. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT+), ethnic minorities, and individuals with mental illnesses attempt and commit suicide at exponentially higher rates than the general population. 

Suicide, across all backgrounds, is stigmatized. Stigmatizing suicide inadvertently places suicidal individuals at greater risk. Therefore, the first step towards suicide prevention is fostering an open dialogue on it. Instead of shaming individuals for having suicidal thoughts or ideations, suicidal individuals must be approached with empathy, care, and concern. Assuring a suicidal individual that they have someone to reach out to and receive non-judgemental support is extremely important. Thus, the general public must be educated on the risk factors of suicide, common behaviors of suicidal individuals, and what to do if someone they know is suicidal. 

Risk factors of suicide often include, but are not limited to, mental illness, emotional distress, and financial hardship. Individuals symptomatic of depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders have a higher risk of attempting suicide. (6) Understanding this, it is imperative to increase access to medical and psychological resources. To do so, legislation must be passed to require every student in the United States K-12 education system to meet with a school psychologist for a 30 minute mental and emotional wellness screening a minimum of 2 times during the school year and to ensure that every adult that calls a suicide prevention hotline or has 911 called on their behalf is given mandatory crisis counseling and mandatory postvention, or post-suicidal intervention, support. 

Implementing suicide prevention measures for younger populations can have a life-long impact, especially since mental illness and emotional distress are presenting in children at alarming rates. According to the Child Mind Institute, 60 percent of American children symptomatic of depression and 80 percent of American children symptomatic of an anxiety disorder do not have adequate access to psychological counseling. (7) Socioeconomic status, geographic location, and cultural/religious beliefs interfere with a child being able to receive psychological counseling. The K-12 school system, which currently serves over 50 million American children, provides the space and resources to increase children’s access to psychological counseling. Unfortunately, there is a massive personnel shortage of school psychologists in the K-12 education system, with an estimated 9,000 needed. (8) A way to quell this shortage would be to pass legislation to lower the ratio of students-to-school psychologists, therefore increasing the number of school psychologists at each K-12 school. By doing so, it would enable school psychologists to meet with each student for a 30 minute mental and emotional wellness screening a minimum of 2 times during the school year. 

Lowering the ratio of students-to-school psychologists and requiring students to meet with them for a 30 minute mental and emotional wellness screening a minimum of 2 times during the school year would allow at-risk children to be directed towards long-term resources. For children who are enrolled in charter schools, increasing the number of school psychologists can be strongly encouraged. For children who are homeschooled, virtual counseling can be provided. In addition to being able to screen children for their mental and emotional wellness, school psychologists provide unbiased support and encouragement to children. School psychologists help teach emotional intelligence, impart positive coping mechanisms, and provide resources that can ultimately prevent suicide. 

In addition to requiring mental and emotional wellness screenings for children, legislation must be passed to ensure that every adult that calls a suicide prevention hotline or has 911 called on their behalf is given mandatory crisis counseling and mandatory postvention, or post-suicidal intervention, support. Even if someone is considered low-risk in their suicidal ideation, mandatory crisis counseling can prevent someone from attempting suicide and enable them to get the help they need. Crisis counseling can restore a suicidal individual’s sense of self and give them a sense of control over their situation. Moreover, crisis counseling contributes to the de-escalation of a suicidal individual from a state of crisis. After de-escalation, a suicidal individual must be monitored and supported. Postvention, or post-suicidal intervention, support can facilitate resilience and prevent future suicidal ideation. Postvention support should include contacting personal references of the suicidal individual to make them aware of the situation and requiring the suicidal individual to complete routine mental and emotional wellness screenings by a licensed professional. 

When it comes to suicide prevention, knowledge is power. It is imperative to spread knowledge to the general public on how to prevent suicide and how to support those who are experiencing suicidal ideation. Suicide prevention seminars can be held at workplaces or virtually through platforms like Zoom to share information on the risk factors of suicide, behaviors to monitor in suicidal individuals, what do to when someone thinks an individual is suicidal, and how to access medical and psychological resources. It is also important to spread knowledge to suicidal individuals. Teaching suicidal individuals emotional intelligence, coping mechanisms, and how to access resources can empower them to reach out when they are experiencing suicidal ideation. Through fostering an open dialogue on suicide, educating the general public, and increasing access to medical and psychological resources, suicide can be prevented.

Sources:

(1) Hedgegaard, H., Curtin, S.C., & Warner, M. (2020). Increase in suicide mortality in the United States, 1999-2018. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics.

(2) NIMH. (2019). Suicide: Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. National Institute of Mental Health.

(3) Tavernise, S. (2016). U.S. suicide rate surges to a 30-year high. The New York Times.

(4) SAVE. (2020). Suicide statistics and facts. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

(5) SAVE. (2020). Suicide statistics and facts. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

(6) Chesney, E., Goodwin, G. M., & Fazel, S. (2014). Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders: a meta-review. World Psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 13(2), 153-160.

(7) Child Mind Institute. (2015). Children’s Mental Health Report. Child Mind Institute Speak Up For Kids.

(8)  Curtis, M.J., Hunley, S.A., & Grier, E.C. (2004). The status of school psychology: Implications of a major personnel shortage. Psychology in Schools, 41(4), 431-442.

Ending Thoughts:

DO NOT HESITATE to reach out to someone you think is experiencing suicidal ideation. It may be an awkward and difficult conversation, but it could save their life.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Life can be hard at times. But you have survived every hard time to date. You will get through this one, too.

HELP IS AVAILABLE. Reach out. Please. We need you here.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255

Lifeline Chat: Click here

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation, please use the aforementioned resources and seek help immidiately.

Sending love to all of you!

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