Working to Destigmatize the Conversation During Suicide Prevention Week

Sep 12, 2018

Suicide is a topic often avoided in conversation for its sensitive nature, yet according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, almost 45,000 Americans die by suicide each year. Dr. Michael Bordieri visits Sounds Good to discuss how one might approach destigmatizing the subject and reaching a helping hand to those who need it most.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of deaths in the United States, yet the topic itself tends to be brushed over due to its associated discomfort, sensitivity, or a general unawareness on how to best help someone suffering from suicidal thoughts. "The key," Dr. Michael Bordieri, MSU professor of psychology, states, "is to not be afraid of asking." Asking a friend how they are doing, checking in, etc., is the first step in finding people who genuinely need external assistance in combating suicidal idealization or tendencies. 

While there is no definitive trigger that causes a spur of suicidal thoughts, any significant losses (professional, personal, or academic), changes in a relationship, or other instances that might cause anxiety, guilt, or shame, are important times to check in on loved ones to assess their mental health. Another warning sign of a shift in mental health is isolation or withdrawal from normal social situations. 

Many people might not know how to wade through social standards that encourage or suggest the suppression of negative emotions. Not all people who suffer from suicidal thoughts will kill themselves, and the thoughts are much more common than people think. There are two forms of suicidal idealization, active and passive. Active idealization involves a desire to die, and a planned method of execution. Passive idealization involves a desire to die with no set plan or method in mind.

Any person dealing with suicidal thoughts, passive or active, needs help. If you know someone suffering from active suicidal idealization, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately -- active suicidal thoughts are a medical emergency. While some people might assume passive idealization is less serious, as it does not always constitute an emergency call or hospital trip, victims of passive idealization still need a helping hand, listening ear, or a shoulder to lean on. Setting up an appointment with a mental health professional, directing someone to the National Suicide Hotline, or simply being with the person are all ways to help with passive idealization. Many suicide attempts are executed alone, and remaining in the presence of the mentally sick can be beneficial in preventing an early death.  

If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, contact a local mental health professional or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7, 365 days a year). Suicide is complicated and tragic, but often times, it is preventable.