How to Help Prevent Suicide

How to Help Prevent Suicide | >> Click to Read!*Trigger Warning: this post may contain triggers surrounding suicide, suicide loss, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Please take a minute to read The Sunny Shadow Disclaimer.

The exact number of my suicide attempts escapes me. But the number’s irrelevant, all that matters is that I’m still here. Sometimes I still believe that suicide is an inevitability for me; simply a matter of time. For a long time it sat on a shelf in the middle of my mind with a label that read, “there’s always ‘that’ option.”

To ask if I have suicidal thoughts is a complicated question.

It isn’t so much a thought as it is a state of mind. One that I carry around with me everywhere I go. Having this “option” used to lessen the trapped feeling that once burdened me. Even after finally receiving a diagnosis I still felt isolated & somewhat hopeless, like no one could possibly understand. But those feelings were an illusion. One produced by my disorder & stigma. What’s tragic is, that illusion kept me from telling anyone. And sadly, this is a common reality in our world today.

Those of us with mental illness &/or suicidal ideations are often fighting two grueling battles at the same time. On one hand is our debilitating disease; that we did nothing to cause, could have done nothing to prevent, & are now doing everything within our power to manage. And on the other hand is stigma – societal & self-imposed.

What Is Mental Health Stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from their peers. It occurs when a person labels another based on their illness. We perpetuate stigma by assigning & feeding into stereotypes. The media does this by sensationalizing stories & misrepresenting individuals with mental illnesses. This incites prejudice & discrimination.

3 out of 4 people with mental illness report that they have experienced stigma.

Mental health stigma is silencing. As it produces feelings of inadequacy, shame, hopelessness, & even guilt. Stigma can make people feel ashamed for even having suicidal thoughts, much less asking for help. So not only are some facing the challenge of a lifelong mental illness but they’re also working incredibly hard not to internalize imposed societal stigma. A double-edged sword.

The topic of suicide often evokes feelings of anxiety, shame, guilt, & even anger. It makes people uncomfortable, so often they just don’t talk about it. But when they do, their words are sometimes laced with hurtful stereotypes, labels, & even slander.

Clearly, you’re not familiar with the depths of depression if you consider suicide to be “a selfish act.” An act? Really?? I have no {nice} words.

Not everyone is capable of keeping all of that noise out. Coupled with mental illness,  eventually this can lead to fatal consequences.


»Know the Suicide Warning Signs « 


38,000 people die by suicide each year in the U.S.; more than by homicide. It continues to  be one of the top three leading causes of death among young people ages 15 to 24. As many as 1 in 5 patients with bipolar disorder completes suicide. Additionally, suicide is the leading cause of premature death in patients with bipolar disorder, according to The Treatment Advocacy Center.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK{8255}

 It’s okay to ask, “are you okay?” In fact, it could save a life.

Many people who attempt &/or complete suicide don’t necessarily want to die, they just want the pain to end. This was so in my case. I never extensively dwelled on death itself. It was ultimately about ending my suffering; which at the time, I didn’t understand the source of. Not that understanding it takes any of the pain away. It doesn’t. But I personally find that understanding the source of my pain offers me hope.

I now realize that when I find myself in bipolar depression’s black hole of despair, it’s temporary. Even though it’s hard as hell to fight off & I don’t always do a great job of doing so, logically I know that it’s my disorder lying to me & I won’t feel that way forever. Read this → The Thing About Bipolar Disorder

Many people do want help even though they’re incapable of asking for it. Some of us don’t know how. Some of us are ashamed. Some of us just don’t have the strength. It’s not a matter of courage, but strength. We’re courageous beings or we wouldn’t still be standing. But sometimes simply surviving requires every bit of strength one has, so there’s not much left to go around. Mental illness beats you to the ground.

You can make a difference by simply asking your loved one if he or she is okay. It’s even okay to ask if your loved one is having suicidal thoughts, or any thoughts of hurting themselves.

How to Help Prevent Suicide? End Stigma!

» Separate the person from their illness. We are not our illnesses. For example, I am the same person I was before you found out that I had a mental illness, so you should treat me as such. And whereas it doesn’t bother me when people say “I am bipolar,” many people find it offensive. And understandably so. It kind of makes it sound like bipolar disorder is all I am, when that’s obviously not the case. My mental illness is just one small piece of me. So be respectful and mindful of your words. Instead, try to use the phrasing “I have bipolar.” I mean, if you really think about it, saying that “I am bipolar” is also kind of like saying that I represent the disease as a whole or that I represent everyone who has bipolar disorder. Weird, huh? {& slightly narcissistic}

» Educate yourself. Don’t rely on stereotypes or the media to draw your conclusions. They’re full of misrepresentations & false facts, even though it’s not always intentional. Do your own research. Ask your loved one to share what they’ve learned about the disorder. This will also show that you care.

» Treat physical & mental illnesses the same. Mental illness is different from physical illness only because it’s located in the brain and it’s less understood. Those are not good reasons to stigmatize anyone. Offer a mentally unwell person the same care & support you would a physically unwell person. Treat us equally, because we are.

» Mind your words. Rather than saying, “committed suicide” -like one commits a crime or a sin. Try saying, “died from suicide.” Rather than saying “so&so is bipolar disorder,” try saying “so&so has bipolar disorder.”

» In your own time, share your personal experience, strength, & hope with others. You have nothing to be ashamed of. So you don’t have to act “hush-hush” about your own mental illness. This perpetuates the idea that mental illness should be kept quiet, as if it’s something to be embarrassed by. That idea keeps people from seeking help. But acceptance is a journey that everyone takes at his and her own pace. So when you feel comfortable, share your experiences with others. This will let them know that they are not alone and give them courage and strength when they may need it the most.

» Put an end to stigma every chance you get! As you become educated, educate others. If you find yourself around people who are perpetuating stigma, put an end to it by correcting any false information.

Silver Lining

While stigma can negatively impact existing mental illness, it has also been shown to righteously anger some individuals. Thus empowering them to take more active roles in their treatment plans & to even become mental health advocates.


Suicide is preventable. We can help by learning the suicide warning signs, asking someone if he or she is okay or having suicidal thoughts, & doing our part to end stigma. To end stigma we begin by educating ourselves first & then we move on to educate others. Remember that mental illness is the same as physical illness, it simply takes place in the brain. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, the true life accounts bravely shared in this U.S. News & World Report article is proof of that.

Get Involved

Continue to talk about mental illness & suicide. Do your part to bring them out of the shadows & into the light. Register to walk or make a donation to Out of the Darkness Walks, hosted by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

And International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is always the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline w/Ribbon -via

Have you experienced stigma? Share your experience in the comments. Also share how you plan to erase it!

SOURCES: National Institutes of Health, National Alliance of Mental Health, National Institutes of Mental Health, NIMH



  1. Hilda Lausell

    Thank for this article. It’s powerful and important for those with loves ones living in this misery and despair on a daily basis. Loved ones need to know this is not a choice someone with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder makes. I will share this. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Hilda, beautiful name by the way. I wish I could simply choose to come out of depressive episodes. And unfortunately it affects the entire family, which adds another layer of guilt to depression. It’s important for loved ones of those battling mental illness to seek support of their own. Though I don’t completely understand that vantage point, I know it can be wearing. Thank you for visiting and sharing. Take care, Krista.

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