For anyone who has lost a loved one due to suicide, it is one of the most painful issues they will ever face; sometimes leaving an overwhelming sense of doubt, guilt, and silence enfolding the circle of friends and family like no other experience can. In the wake of this tragedy, we are painfully forced to question- What could I have done? Could I have made a difference? Why didn’t I know?
We don’t have a life to lose in this world. We must confront suicide and suicidal thoughts openly and honestly, and use every opportunity to make a difference by breaking the silence and suffering. Ten years ago the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention was launched. Its objectives galvanized the country around a common goal. As a result, we have advanced the science and support for suicide prevention programs nationwide.
New suicide prevention work has emerged across the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services and others. One notable achievement is the establishment of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a number that can be dialed anywhere in the United States to connect the caller with confidential and expert help.
To accelerate the action needed to prevent suicide, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius launched the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention with the charge to advance and update the National Strategy. The Action Alliance brings together public, private and nonprofit partners to engage every sector of society with a vision of ending the tragic experience of suicide in America.
Facebook is an important part of that partnership, and the new initiative to augment its response to potentially suicidal members by offering the opportunity for a private chat with a trained crisis representative from the Suicide Prevention Lifeline in addition to providing the Lifeline’s phone number. This service will be available to people who use Facebook in the United States and Canada.
The new service enables Facebook users to report a suicidal comment they see posted by a friend to Facebook using either the Report Suicidal Content link or the report links found throughout the site. The person who posted the suicidal comment will then immediately receive an e-mail from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.
Preventing suicide is everyone’s business. Nearly 100 Americans die by suicide every day, and in the past year, more than eight million Americans 18 or older had thought seriously about suicide. As members of a family, a school, business, neighborhood, faith communities, friends, and our government, we all need to work together to solve this problem.
We simply can no longer allow those we live, work and play with to ever believe that suicide is an acceptable solution even in the worst of times. Everyone needs to learn about the symptoms of mental illnesses and substance abuse, the warning signs of suicide, how to stand with and support someone who is in crisis, and how to get someone you care about the help they need.
Most of all, we need to be open to talking about these issues in our communities. Once we begin to support those in need, and whenever possible treat their mental and substance use disorders with the same urgency as any other health condition, we will reduce the rates of suicide, advance health and improve the use of limited health care dollars.
Learn more about the partnership between Facebook, SAMHSA and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.