Suicide. It is not something I see a lot of talks about at herbalist gatherings and events. But it is one of the top causes of death amongst our fellow Americans right now. Yes. And most of us know, in the back of our minds, that it is something we need to grapple with but it’s just so damn upsetting and confusing that it’s not being widely discussed right now.
So let’s start.
What can we, as herbalists, educators or other providers of healthcare in our community do to help? Where can we get more information to support our friends, family, students, clients and–even ourselves? It is a big subject which has no one easy answer, but let’s work together to learn more and shed some light into this darkness.
So first, herbalists cannot “cure’ suicide. I am NOT alleging that we use herbs to fix this, though I do see herbal allies as one of many potential long-term supportive strategies. I’d also like to see us in discussion around the tension between privacy issues and crisis intervention-the whens, whys and hows.
What I would like to see is the development of 2 main strategies:
- Have a plan before the crisis.
- Know where to refer to for more help.
So, having a plan means asking ourselves what we will do when someone comes to us in a deep depression, with suicidal thoughts or exhibiting signs of risk factors for a suicide attempt. Learning what these signs are is a good start. Some examples here are serious PTSD, veteran status, serious head trauma, use of certain drugs, both prescribed and illicitly obtained, history of or current severe depression, past history or past family history of suicide attempts. Check out some of the resources here for more information on risk.
And knowing where to refer means asking some basic questions such as: Do you know a trusted mental health-care practitioner to refer to? Do you have the phone number of a crisis hotline handy? Are you willing to call for emergency services if needed? And who can YOU ask for help if you need support or backup?
I’d love to propose that practitioners and educators who feel comfortable discussing crisis can display a hotline number in the office, facility or place of business. I’d love to see Icarus Projects’ books prominently displayed on our shelves and “You are not alone” stickers and posters in bathrooms.
I’d love to see us use art, poetry, words and actions to communicate our openness to listening and helping to support people in crisis. And for us to just simply say “Hey, YOU can talk to me about this!”
I’d like to see us foster connections that build trust around mental health discussions. I’d like to see check-ins, mutual aid and people just generally giving a shit whether or not others in our community are OK.
I’d like to see acknowledgement that life itself IS both dark and light, as well as all shades in-between. That some degree of depression is normal, and that you are not broken if you are not 100% happy. I’d like to talk back to the people who blame others for having “negative” thoughts, which are actually normal up to a point, and who seek to gloss over and dismiss the reality of life’s cycles and the systemic issues that help create feelings of isolation and helplessness.
I’d like to see classes, discussions and/or roundtable workshops on suicide prevention included in our education and our events. Both discussion of long-term mental wellness for prevention and discussion of identifying and taking action in the crisis moment. We may also want to create a safe practitioner space to talk about our own fears, judgement or triggers about suicide so that we can be our best as listeners. Let’s work together to shed some light into this subject, to come out (if applicable) as survivors or mourners, to continue to dismantle the shame around the subject and help to build and promote both new and existing support structures. This is everyone’s problem. We aren’t well-rounded as healthcare practitioners if we aren’t discussing one of the top cases of death. Let’s not wait until we are in the midst of a crisis to put these numbers in our phone, or these resources into our practice.
__Important: I am not necesarily in 100% agreement with all of the politics or details within these resources. Hopefully this list will evolve. I merely present this list as a starting point. Thanks for understanding that.___
- http://www.TheIcarusProject.net This is my personal favorite resource for mental health related information. I love and trust the Icarus Project and I strongly suggest their books, pamphlets, and resources. They have a Crisis Toolkit available and they host supportive groups all over the country. Queer/trans friendly and anti-oppressive.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255, put it in your phone, hang it up in your office. This is staffed 24 hours a day, every day. Often someone in crisis may just need to talk, safely, to sort things out, to get through a crisis, and this is one way to do so.
- http://www.onbeing.org, episode with Jennifer Michael Hecht on suicide and discussion of her book Stay, episode includes list of resources.
- http://www.sprc.org Suicide prevention resource center. seems rather mainstream to me but of course not everyone is a raging anarchist with soil under their fingernails so check it out and decide for yourself.
- http://www.Trevorproject.org, specifically focused on LGBTQ youth, 866-488-7386, and they have chat and text options
- http://www.AFSP.org , American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- http://www.Suicidology.org this seems to be resources for everyone to learn more, rather than just a focus on people in crisis.
- http://www.Surgeongeneral.gov has some resources, including stats and reports, search for the NSSP, National Society for Suicide prevention
- Crisis: Journal of Crisis intervention and Suicide Prevention, this is a scholarly journal with research and articles.
- http://www.NOPCAS.org is the National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide, for those who may feel more comfortable with this identity
- http://www.VeteransCrisisLine.net, 800-273-8255, specific to veterans
And finally, I want to say this. Wherever you are in your journey of life, whether you have lost someone, have made an attempt yourself or are considering it, or are grappling with this issue in some way, YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS. You are important, you are resilient and we are connected. There is always a way, and we will find this way. I am open to this discussion, let’s move forward together.