Suicide is a very serious global public health issue. Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide – a total of close to 800,000 people every year. Suicide is one of the 20 leading causes of death globally, even second among 15 to 29 year-olds. More than half of all suicides happen before the age of 45. These statistics from the World Health Organization’s September 2019 report “Suicide in the World” are just terrible.
Reading this report makes me, and I can imagine many others, extremely sad. The realization that the numbers in this report actually represent people who have ended their own lives. And there is even more to this, because one suicide affects so many more lives, the lives of the loved ones they leave behind. This report also makes me hopeful, because these heartbreaking statistics and spreading of this report help to get suicide out of taboo. Statistics and personal experience show that suicide affect us all; countries, age groups, throughout layers of society.
I hope that attention for suicide leads to more open conversations, asking for and offering help to others and finding solutions together to prevent adults and children to take their own lives. I realize that this is not easy, this has great complexity and challenges. It is time to act more, together. If we unite our efforts, we can improve the mental health of people around the world.
Suicide can steal into one’s life slowly, it can also hit in like a bomb
Suicide touches me on a deep, very personal level. I was 21 when I lost my beautiful mother to suicide. My mother was a healthy woman, mental health issues entered her life slowly and got worse. There were many good years and periods of depression before that black day. Almost thirteen years later I lost my younger brother to a sudden suicide, he ended his life in a psychosis. I know for a fact that suicide can happen to beautiful human beings and that it can steal into one’s life slowly or it can hit in like a bomb.
Suicide touched my life in other ways too. I have witnessed the loss of a friend and recently was informed about a former colleague – both young, successful and seemingly happy guys – who left many puzzled people behind. I have been touched by numerous stories from people who have lost a parent, a sibling, a partner, a child, a family member, a close friend, a friend they knew, a colleague or a neighbor to suicide. Last week I spoke to a friend who already had to funerals of friends of her teenage son, two 15 year old boys.
There are so many stories of seemingly happy, healthy people who either developed a gradual mental health condition or took action with a sudden suicide. Through the years, I have also heard many judgments and prejudices about suicide and mental health issues. That it is weak or even selfish; not everyone understands the gravity of these serious health conditions.
Mental health issues are everywhere
Due to circumstances in my life, I lost my happy and generally positive mental state for a few years. I did not realize it, until I was diagnosed with a burn-out. I had turned into a negative, pessimistic and heavy young woman, although for most of the outside world I looked fine. Luckily I never thought seriously about committing suicide, this experience did give me a better understanding of what it can mean to lose your mental health. My own experiences are the reason why I invest in my own health on different levels and I do a lot of other activities that help me come to a deeper understanding of myself. This is also what drives me as a mindfulness and emotional intelligence trainer, coach and speaker. I want to inspire people to take care of their selves, each other and the bigger contexts.
In the past I held my own experiences for myself out of shame, fear of judgement and pity. Over the past years I am more and more open about this topic. It opened many conversations with people who have opened up about times in their life that they were in a very dark place and seriously considered suicide. Ordinary people, with good jobs, and families. In conversations with friends, acquaintances, clients, random people I met, adults and even children have told me about challenges concerning their mental state. Mental health issues are everywhere in our society, families, organizations, schools and friendship circles, and they can affect any individual. More and more celebrities are also opening up about their mental health challenges. And in some sort of way we are already in this together, as we all suffer from the voice of the inner critic and have negative self-talk, myself included.
What can we do and how can we unite our efforts?
May this be good reminders for all of us, on this Mental Health Awareness Day
- Please, take care of yourself: Check-in with yourself and make sure to know what to are alarming signals and how to maintain your mental health. Do not hesitate to actively ask for help if you need it – you are not alone; many people suffer from mental health issues.
- Please, take care of each other: Talk about mental health issues openly while letting go of pre-judgments. Listen and offer your help to people who need it.
- Please, put mental health awareness actively on the agenda of your company: Inform your employees and co-workers about mental health and help them to take care of their wellbeing.
- Please, discuss mental health awareness in schools: Help children to stay healthy and ask for help from adults if they needs us.
- Put mental health issues high up on the political agenda: We need to do something about this on a societal level and make sure people have the necessary access to care.
Ready to take more action?
- Read here about how to unite your efforts and support the cause in just 40 seconds.
- Read more here about mental health & mental health awareness day:
- Access the full Global Health Report “Suicide in the World”/ World Health Organization report here