Emotional distress does not discriminate or choose its time, and it is our youth who are least prepared when it happens. They have little experience in managing stress and don’t know how to cope, particularly at a time when their bodies are changing, their hormones are raging and there is increasing pressure from peers, school and community to conform to social norms. The subject of youth suicide is particularly challenging and surrounded by unease, myth and stigma. The more we talk about how we really feel, the less awkward, the less uncomfortable it will become.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is human nature to want to end pain, but we have to tell ourselves and those we care about that there is always another, better solution available. We just need to find it. Suicide prevention is both a community and an individual task, and everyone has a role to play, however large or small.
It’s important that those in need feel supported and cared for. If we are to help people cope with difficult feelings, we need to be open, non-judgmental and ready to talk, listen and show that we care. We can all contribute to making a difference by being the one to take responsibility for one or more of the following actions.
Be the One to Push Back on Stigma
There are many misconceptions about suicide and it can evoke shame and even fear. You can take action by challenging judgements and baseless information. Replace stigma with openness, facts and positivity.
Be the One to Ask for Help
There is no shame in asking for help if you feel your emotions are getting on top of you. It’s important to talk with someone you can trust and seek support. Talking can help you understand what’s troubling you and work through how you can best help yourself. Don’t leave these thoughts to stew in your mind.
Be the One to Understand your Emotions
We all have a full spectrum of emotions, and each can be short-lived or enduring. By recognising emotions when they occur and what triggered them, we can deploy effective means to manage them and respond accordingly. Writing down “I’m feeling sad /happy/anxious/angry/distressed because.…” is a great way to understand what specific emotions you’re experiencing and what triggered them.
Be the One to Connect
Being connected to other people is essential to emotional well-being. You can help safeguard your personal well-being by keeping yourself well connected with family and friends, and the support they can give you.
Be the One to Look Out for Others
We shouldn’t assume that someone doesn’t need support or is not at risk just because they seem fine on the surface!Keep checking in and ask, “Are you okay?” Then asking, “Are you sure you’re okay” so the person knows you are genuinely interested in them and you’re prepared to listen.
Be the One to Learn more about Mental Health and Suicide
Improving mental health literacy will enable people to have informed conversations and understand more about mental health conditions that can affect any of us. According to MindHK, 1 in 7 Hongkongers face a common mental health issue.
There are numerous resources online about mental health to help you familiarise yourself with mental health terminology and common conditions. In Hong Kong, you can find mental health resources at Mind HK, KELY Support Group and Weez Project.
Be the One to Treat Mental Health Like Physical Health.
Our mental well-being isas important as our physical health. Treat each equally, yet we often dismiss our emotions, thinking there is nothing to be done about them. Treat mental and physical health equally. Be sure to seek professional support if you are concerned about your own mental state or that of another, just as you would with physical health.
Be the One to be Learn Suicide Intervention Techniques
Just as we learn how to conduct CPR if someone stops breathing, we can all learn the basic skills to help someone in a suicidal crisis. You can take the Zero Suicide Alliance free online training course for a basic grounding in how to intervene effectively. Other methods include ASIST and QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer).
Be the One to Know the Facts and Myths about Suicide
There are many myths and falsehoods around suicide. It is an emotive and divisive subject. It is also highly complex with multiple factors usually at play, e.g. biological, psychological, life experiences, relationships and more.
Be the One to Know About Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts
If you experience difficult thoughts or someone close to you is struggling with suicidal ideations, there are steps to take to understand and deal with these thoughts and get back to a positively focused life
Be the One to Know the Warning Signs
There are usually warning signs that someone is in emotional distress, possibly considering suicide. Not all signs will be apparent, and some people may attempt to hide them. Knowing the signs can help you be alert to changes in someone around you that may indicate they are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Signs include:
- Withdrawal and distancing from friends and family.
- Lack of attention to personal care and hygiene.
- Loss of interest in favoured hobbies and activities
- Unusual behaviour patterns.
- Risk taking
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol.
- Talking about feeling hopeless, helpless or about death
- Anger, irritation
- Giving away personal possessions
Be the One to Talk
Develop some conversation starters to encourage someone to talk about how they feel:
“I noticed you looked sad. Are you okay? Can you tell me about it?”
“I’m concerned about you and care about you. Shall we talk?”.
“Is there anything you want to share with me? “I’m always here for you.”
Observe their behaviour and respond appropriately.
Be the One to Listen
We all know when someone is really listening. What a difference it makes to have someone’s undivided attention.
We actively encourage young people and others who are struggling with their feelings to talk to someone. Take the bold first step to connect to someone and show that you are ready to listen, and do so with commitment. Listen without judgement or interruption.
Be the One to Care
Above all, being kind and showing that you care is a highly impactful way of supporting someone in need. Knowing they are loved and cared for and not alone in their thoughts will encourage vital help-seeking responses. Be the One to be there and show love for the ones you care about.
Everyone can take action to prevent youth suicide. Collectively, these actions can form a powerful force for good to change and save young lives. We can all Be the One !