Content/trigger warning: suicide, police mention
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably think you know where I’m going with this. You probably think I’m going to say “if we dismantle ableism, people experiencing suicidal ideation won’t be afraid of being judged for their symptoms or being forcibly institutionalized and will seek help.” Well, you’re sort of right. We do have to dismantle ableism.
The thing is we can’t dismantle ableism without establishing a wholly equitable, non-capitalist society. To paraphrase the great Lydia Brown, ableism is part of every axis of oppression. Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but capitalism is inherently ableist because…well, many reasons, but mainly because capitalism devalues lives that can’t be spent being “productive.” At least in the United States, organic mental illness is not the only reason people die by suicide, so organic mental illness is not the only cause of suicide we should discuss when talking about suicide prevention. Being oppressed, especially on multiple axes, is fucking depressing. Generational trauma is fucking depressing. Living in a country that is circling the toilet bowl of fascism is fucking depressing.
I’m cribbing from an image that Latinas Rising created and posted on Facebook, but here are some methods of suicide prevention that go beyond the “get help” narrative:
- Universal basic income
- Youth suicide prevention courses
- Affordable healthcare
- Food security
- Housing security/affordable housing
- Community engagement activities
- Increasing accessibility to mental healthcare
- Disestablishment of abusive mental health institutions/no more forced institutionalization of suicidal people
- Parenting skills and family relationship programs, especially ones that teach parents to accept and love their LGBTQIAP+ children
And of course…
- Destigmatizing mental health treatment
- Destigmatizing being openly Disabled
Suicide hotlines aren’t enough. Actually, let me go into why suicide hotlines suck. To my knowledge, only one of them–Trans Lifeline, at 877-565-8860–doesn’t have the capability/policy of calling the fucking police on suicidal people. The police don’t know how to deal with mentally ill people. They just kill us for having symptoms, and of course it’s even more dangerous to call the police on a suicidal person of color, especially if they are Black. So suicide hotlines aren’t safe. They’re also by and large not accessible to people who are unable to talk on the phone. Yes, there are some text-only hotlines, but they may not be specialized, which leads me to my next point: LGBTQIAP+ people have a higher rate of suicide, especially teen suicide, than zedcishet people–The Trevor Project reports that members of the LGBTQIAP+ community aged 15 to 24 are up to four times more likely than their zedcishet peers to attempt suicide–and many general suicide hotlines don’t have the resources to help LGBTQIAP+ callers. I mean, a 2011 study revealed that 26% of surveyed asexual people had experienced suicidal thoughts within the past two weeks compared with 24% of surveyed zedsexual non-hetero people and 12% of surveyed zedcishet people. But as an asexual person, if I had called a suicide helpline as a despondent 19-year-old who was despairing at being an inhuman “biological snafu” (as I called myself at the time) the helpline operator probably would have told me that I was experiencing low sexual desire due to my depression, or at the very least not known what asexuality was.
Another problem with the “get help” narrative is that “help” isn’t accessible to huge swathes of people. Therapy and medication aren’t right for everyone. And when they are right for someone, they are fucking expensive, even with insurance, and plenty of people in the States either don’t have insurance or have shitty insurance. Also, the medical-industrial complex is so violent that many people who seek psychiatric treatment end up so traumatized by the experience that they can no longer safely access therapy and medication. So even when people don’t have barriers to “getting help,” the “help” often hurts. I’m lucky enough to have gone through almost a decade of psychiatric and psychological treatment without incurring medical trauma, but I’ve seen more mental health professionals than I could count on two hands, and only four of them didn’t horribly suck in some way (and by “horribly suck” I mean they misdiagnosed me, pathologized asexuality, or guilt-tripped me for escaping my abusive parents).
“Help” also isn’t enough to prevent suicide for many oppressed people. I already mentioned LGBTQIAP+ people, but of course being part of any oppressed group in the States is traumatizing. Mental health treatment, even competent mental health treatment, can’t ameliorate the intense suffering caused by racism, classism, misogyny, Christian hegemony, fatmisia, xenomisia, ableism, disfiguremisia, etc., and of course I can’t emphasize enough how violent capitalism is and how it contributes to all these -isms. Being marginalized on a systemic level, especially in a capitalist society, can lead to the kind of extreme hopelessness that causes suicide. (This paragraph has been brought to you by months of living paycheck-to-paycheck and still not making ends meet while working 48-hour weeks and having a sick ESA. For months now I’ve been convinced that I survived and escaped abuse only to let capitalism kill me because it was only a matter of time before the financial stress got to me.)
I think that’s all I have for now. Tl;dr we can only prevent suicide in the United States by dramatically changing society.Thanks for reading, and if you have thought about ending your life but are still here, I’m glad you stayed.
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