Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Suicide Prevention: Where Is There Progress?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Suicide Prevention: Where Is There Progress?

Article excerpt

Showing support can help stop suicide.

That's part of the message the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) delivered Thursday for World Suicide Prevention Day: reach out to someone, offer your help, and maybe, in the process, save a life.

"The IASP would like to underline the importance of a proactive approach of services, communities, and individuals towards people at risk of suicide, and those who have lost somebody close through suicide as well," IASP president Ella Arensman said in a statement.

The appeal to be more aggressive in fighting longstanding stigmas around suicide and encouraging those at risk to seek help embodies a crucial shift in discourse around suicide over the past two decades. But it also highlights the problems facing suicide prevention, as well as the limited progress both the international community and the United States has made in helping people at risk of taking their own lives.

"Twenty years ago, suicide was seen as a private matter - something to be discussed only between a patient and a mental health professional," Dr. Jerry Reed, director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, wrote in April. Today, he noted, suicide discourse is meaningful and public.

A new poll, released early this month by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), found that most US adults (93 percent) would do something if someone close to them was thinking about suicide. More than 80 percent said they disagreed with the idea that if someone wants to die by suicide, there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Two-thirds said they knew who they would tell if they were having thoughts of suicide. More than half would reach out to a friend, family member, or spouse if they were contemplating suicide, while just over two in five would reach out to a healthcare provider.

"This is real progress for how Americans view mental health - and suicide prevention," AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia wrote for The Huffington Post. "What was once a taboo topic is increasingly understood as a pressing public health issue that we can address as a nation."

The proliferation of prevention efforts, especially among young people, also represents "a quantum leap forward," Ann Haas, then senior director of education and prevention at the AFSP in New York, told The Christian Science Monitor in 2013.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line are among the leading efforts around the delivery of crisis services, Dr. Reed noted. …

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