Take a minute, change a life

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Papalii Tiumalu Caroline Paul-Ah Chong

2017 marks the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day.  

This day was first recognized in 2003, as an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (I.A.S.P) and endorsed by the World Health Organization (W.H.O). World Suicide Prevention Day takes place each year on September 10.  

This year it falls on Sunday (yesterday) and the theme is “take a minute, change a life”.

Suicide has a huge and devastating impact worldwide, on communities, big n small, on people of all races, color and creed. 

Suicide knows NO boundaries.                                                                             

IASP global statistics reveal that every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and up to 20 million attempt suicide. 

Behind these statistics are the individual stories of those who have, for many different reasons, questioned the value of their own lives.                                  Every single person in the world is part of a family, a community, a workplace, a country. They belong!  However, sometimes one may feel isolated and cut off from the surroundings and environment they live in. 

The reasons are vast and diverse. As human beings, we all have a responsibility to support those in our communities who become vulnerable. 

By reaching out and checking on someone in distress, we can all make a difference. 

Too often, for many reasons, people are reluctant to intervene, even if they are concerned about someone. They may be worried about not knowing what to do for or what to say to the person who needs help.  It is important to remember, however, that there is no hard and fast formula. 

Individuals who have come through an episode of severe suicidal thinking often say that they were not looking for specific advice, but that compassion and empathy from others helped to turn things around for them and point them towards recovery.  

Remember that someone in distress will always be helped by being listened to, with compassion and empathy. By encouraging them to tell their story at their own pace, one can help change the way they may be thinking, or feeling and even change the direction of their life.  

Another factor that deters people from offering help is that they worry about making the situation worse. Again, this hesitation is understandable - broaching the topic of suicide is difficult and there is a myth that talking about suicide with someone can put the idea into their head or trigger the act. Strong evidence from years of research, suggests that this is not the case. Being caring and listening with a non-judgmental ear is by far more likely to reduce distress than exacerbate it.                                                                         

 We can learn from people who have experienced suicidal behavior, and have survived the ordeal. They can teach us the importance of the actions and words of others. Many of these individuals will say “if only someone had taken a minute to ask me how I was feeling, it may have prevented me from engaging in suicidal behavior”. This is encouraging feedback because it can help others reach out to those who are hurting and at risk of self-harm, before it is too late.

Life is precious and sometimes precarious. Taking a minute to reach out to someone – a complete stranger or a close family member or friend – can change the course of their life.                                                             

More than ever mental health service providers, governments and health systems should seriously address suicidal issues and make it their top priority.  

People with suicidal tendencies, are either living with depression or are victims of abuse which can come in many and varied ways – sexual, physical, mental, emotional, financial and many other forms of abuse. Sadly, in most communities, depression is not acknowledged as an illness and abuse is ignored or hidden.  

People who live with depression and/or are being abused tend to suffer in silence because they are afraid to admit there is a problem, afraid to speak out for fear of being ostracized or criticized, or do not know where to seek help. Take a minute to reach out to someone you are concerned about because you can make a difference, you can save their life. 

Finally, if there is anyone you are concerned about, please, give them a minute of your time and ask them “are you OK” / “Oa mai oe”?  It could change or save their life!                                                                                                                                                                                            

Today, please join with Faataua Le Ola (FLO) and others around the world who are working towards the common goal of preventing suicide by                                                                                                                                                                Lighting a Candle and Offering a Prayer at 8 PM - to show your support for suicide prevention, to remember a loved one who’s life was taken by suicide and for the survivors of suicide.                                       

Together, we will ignite the light of Christ, and illuminate the whole of Samoa, therein showing love and support for people who are living with depression and/or living with abuse. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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