Saturday, November 21st is not only the Saturday before Turkey Day. It is also a day to observe and support international survivors of suicide. Sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Survivors Day is a time to give support to those who have lost a friend or family member to this horrific tragedy globally.
Although the stigma surrounding suicide differs slightly around the world based on culture and religion (for example Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are against it, while the Brahmans of India tolerate it), the sadness left behind by those who loved the person who lost their life to suicide is the same. The holidays are an especially hard time for those who have lost loved ones to suicide, and Survivors Day is a way to bring peace around the world to those struggling with this reality.
How can we be involved? According to National Today, there are three things we can do to observe Survivors Day. It is important to remember you can participate even if you have not lost someone to suicide. Being involved and active in this community lends your strength and support and allows you to be more empathetic and understanding.
Attend a Survivors Day event
- UHS offers Survivors Day events that allow you to find share in the messages of healing and hope. Some of these events screen movies and documentaries about coping with suicide after a shared loss. They depict all of the difficult stages including denial, isolation, grief, and the ways in which you can heal from the pain. If you aren’t able to go in person, you can view the program online here.
Write it out
- Art is a great way to express yourself when times get difficult. Grab a journal or use your computer to write down your thoughts. This can be in the form of a poem, a story, or just a journal entry. By expressing yourself, you can come to understand your feelings and where they’re coming from. Turning something difficult into something that’s true and beautiful can also make you feel like you have more control over it.
Attend a local grief support group
- It can be scary telling your own story to a group of people, but support groups offer safe spaces for you to meet with others who have been affected by suicide. It’s a place of understanding as individuals grapple with the hardships of living with it. You’ll have the benefit of speaking with and hearing from professionals with the capacity to help you get through your own battle.
In addition to these suggestions, having a conversation with someone any day of the year about suicide can be powerful. Whether it is someone who you suspect may be having suicidal thoughts or someone who has lost someone to suicide, do not be afraid to reach out. Often, just starting the conversation is the hardest part and will get easier as the conversation continues. If you are still not sure how to begin, check out this website for more ideas.
To end with, five sobering facts about global suicide
- Global suicides: Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.
- Close to home: Nearly 50% of people in the US know someone who has died by suicide.
- LGBT community: LGBT youth are almost five times more likely to attempt suicide.
- Every 11 minutes: On average, one person dies every 11 minutes by suicide.
- Highest suicide rate: Guyana has the most deaths by suicide.
By observing and supporting our brothers and sisters around the world who have lost friends and family members to suicide, we give a voice to their grief. We also honor and remember the victims this way, and allow for meaningful connections to be made. We really are all in this together. Wherever you are in the world or on your journey, be kind to others and to yourself.