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Suicide Prevention Week

Post Series: Suicide Prevention Tour

Once again National Suicide Prevention Week is upon us and World Suicide Prevention Day is Wednesday September 10, 2014.  This year I am approaching the week with somewhat diminished hopes.

On the same day we lost the comedic genius that was Robin Williams; the Suicide Prevention Center of New York informed me I was a recipient of a 2014 Award for Excellence In Suicide Prevention.  Somehow these events of August 11, 2014 seemed incongruous to me.

I get an award (a happy-making thing) for being “excellent” in my field yet there was a death from suicide that was grabbing the headlines.  Hey, I wasn’t expecting headlines but the more I thought about it the more I realized that while we may be excellent there is much, much more to do.

While the media saturated us with the details of Robin’s death and some responsible media outlets offered side stories about suicide, depression and getting help for both something was missed.  Granted Robin Williams was a major icon for many.  But does his icon status make him any more important than the more than 100 other people who estimates say died as a result of suicide on that day?

Ask the survivors about the importance of those they lost.  What about the millions who may have had thoughts of suicide that day or were feeling the pain of depression?  If I were that excellent this would not be the case.  If I were excellent the world would be one of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.  Suicide would not be the cause of death for over 39,000 people per year in the United States.  To me that says those of us in the field were not excellent 39,000 times.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that we are not excellent.  What I am saying is – Those of us who are seen as “authorities” or “professionals” in the field need help.  We need you!

“But what can I do?  I am not a professional,” you say.  The answer is plenty.  To eradicate the diseases we have bought an end to we needed doctors and nurses (professionals).  In our work to eliminate deaths from suicide we do not need professionals.  We need you.  We need all of you to be trained in the basic skills that will allow you to identify the person at risk and keep them safe until the longer-term help they may need can be mustered.  Just as everyone should know First Aid and CPR everyone should be aware of the warning signs of suicide and how to get help.  Everyone who feels at risk should not feel afraid or ashamed to say out loud “I am feeling suicidal will you help me”.  You can be that person who will help.

For Suicide Prevention Week partake in the events that may occur in your community and help to foster awareness.  Then make a larger commitment.  Speak to those organizing the events and ask them how you can get trained in suicide awareness.  Then talk to your family and friends about getting trained also.  Us professionals working with all of you will make a difference.  The old saw that many hands make light works comes to mind.  In this instance the many caring hands help to keep us and those around us safe from suicide.

John Plonski

IMALIVE.org National Trainer

Creator of H.E.A.R.T – Helping Empathically As Responders Training Course

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