In Chris Cornell's memory, let's talk about suicide.


It can be quite troubling for many of us to learn about someone’s suicide. Even when we might not know them personally, we can only imagine the sorrow of the loved ones that are left behind.

Chris Cornell’s passing was heartbreaking news to fans and music lovers around the world. Lead vocalist for the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave but also known for numerous solo works, contributions and musical projects, Cornell is considered one of the architects of the grunge movement. He died by suicide last Wednesday night, at the age of 52.

It’s impossible, as outsiders, to truly understand the circumstances surrounding this sad event, but for some– to me at least– it’s also a reminder that suicide is a problem that concerns all of us and we must talk about it.


Art by ohgigue.com

In fact, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) recognizes suicide as a public health priority, partly due to the fact that:

→ Suicide is a global phenomenon that occurs in all regions of the world.

→ People who attempt suicide and survive may experience serious injuries, such as broken bones, brain damage, or organ failure. These injuries may have long-term effects on their health.

→ Every suicide is a tragedy that affects countless individuals: family members, friends and entire communities who suffer the long-lasting consequences of suicidal behaviors.

→ It is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 34 worldwide (the third for ages 10-14 and the fourth for people 35-44).

Risk Factors

Research confirms that mental illness and substance abuse contribute to many suicides around the world [2]. However, we must keep in sight that suicidal behavior is complex and there is no single cause; people of all genders, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities can be at risk (go to footnote [3] to see the list of risk factors).

It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress, many people have some risk factors but do not attempt suicide. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.

Prevention

Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken to prevent suicide and suicide attempts [4]. Indeed, everyone has a role in preventing suicides. [Check out: “5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain”]

Research suggests that connectedness to family members, teachers, co workers, community organizations, and social institutions can help protect individuals from a wide range of health problems, including suicide risk [5]. Encouraging and perpetrating positive public dialogue around mental health, standing against shaming, prejudice, and silence, and building public support are also important efforts in preventing suicide.

The impact of media


The debate around the use of trigger warnings is vast and heated. The influence media has on collective attitudes, beliefs and behaviors is undeniable. According to the W.H.O, there is enough evidence to suggest that certain types of news coverage increases suicidal behavior in vulnerable populations [6]. We should, therefore, hold the media accountable for its own forms of coverage, reporting, representation, and use –or misuse– of ‘reliable’ information.

“Reporting of suicide in an appropriate, accurate and potentially helpful manner by enlightened media can prevent tragic loss of lives by suicide” [6]

It’s about time the media assumes its own responsibility, and handles this topic (as well as many others) with the seriousness and professional ethic it requires. For a detailed list of the Do’s and Don’ts you can consult the W.H.O.'s “Preventing Suicide, A Resource for Media Professionals”.

Friendly Reminders from Howl:

>> Any one of us may feel like we don’t have the tools or capacity to deal with a difficult situation– such as a friend’s emotional pain– at one point or another. Nevertheless, we can be sufficiently informed to know that if someone expresses feelings of isolation, hopelessness or any form of acute emotional distress, they should not be ignored, ridiculed or discarded, but rather addressed by a trained professional.

>> It's completely healthy to acknowledge your own emotional boundaries and limitations. We can’t always engage empathically with everyone, but WE CAN CHOOSE to be kind, to be responsible & to be mindful of our words and actions.

>> Most of the time, people who experience suicidal thoughts feel isolated and hopeless but the reality is that no one is ever truly alone. THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE THAT CAN HELP. A teacher, a friend, a family member... though other times it can actually be easier to open up to a stranger: a doctor, a therapist, a counselor, even a group (such as AA or other therapy groups) or organization. Especially now in the digital era, no matter where you are, no matter who you are, you can always find a source of guidance, support and company through difficult times. •


If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at

1-800- 273-TALK

(1-800-273-8255)

You can learn more at:

> Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

>CDC Facebook Page on Violence Prevention

> National Institute for Mental Health

> Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

> Suicide Prevention Resource Center

FOOTNOTES

[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs398/en/

[2]https://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/national-strategy-suicide-prevention/overview.pdf

[3] Risk factors for suicide include:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)

  • History of depression or other mental illness

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • Family history of suicide or violence

  • Physical illness

  • Feeling alone

  • Being exposed to others' suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities

[4] Prevention measures include:

  • Reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);

  • Reporting by media in a responsible way;

  • Introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;

  • Early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;

  • Training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behavior;

  • Follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.

http://www.who.int/mental_health/resources/preventingsuicide/en/

[5] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

[6] http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/67604/1/WHO_MNH_MBD_00.2.pdf

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