Where Did The Village Go?
September is considered Suicide Prevention Awareness month. As someone who has spent much of her career working directly in suicide prevention, this is much more than a month. While I am incredibly proud of the work that I’ve done and our FSA teams continue to do, something is clearly missing. Deaths by suicide have increased drastically in the past 15 years, emergency visits for self-harm have risen by almost 100% since my early days as a crisis worker, and the US Surgeon General has deemed mental health as the defining public health issue of our time.
There are many theories on why this troubling trend continues to rise…social media, increased pressures to perform, hustle culture, a declining confidence in a brighter future, racism, violence, climate disasters, widening gaps between the wealthy and poor, loss of family values, and many other social determinants of health. I am going to trust the researchers to continue to find the root causes and help us to address them. However, sitting idly by while people are suffering is not my style. One thing that I continuously hear in conversations rather I am talking directly with a person contemplating suicide, a family member impacted by suicide or another professional working with suicidal persons is loneliness.
The current epidemic of loneliness is vast and isolation is encouraged by our distrust of others. We do not socially connect in the way we did in the past and the sense of community has significantly changed over time. I grew up with many people reciting the old saying of, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Where has our village gone? How do we look out for common good today in a deeply divided and litigious culture that is quick to accuse and slow to accept accountability? People draw anxious and often misguided conclusions from their ring cameras, social media accounts, and casual observations. Humans are social creatures; even our natural introverts need social connection. It is well-researched that loneliness has huge mental health implications that can lead to such extremes as suicidal thoughts and substance use issues.
My call to action this suicide prevention month is to reach out beyond your comfort zone to help others feel included. Be a safe person to interact with by accepting what they say without placing judgement. People just want to belong as they are.
On our social media channels in the month of September, we will post a weekly belongingness challenge. Please join us in helping to build a more connected community where authentic connection is valued and celebrated. Let’s be the village!