Suicide Prevention

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.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Sydney! If you’re reading this and are not a Patreon supporter, it’s only $1 to see blog entries two days early and participate in producer polls to help me choose topics to write about and $5 to submit potential topics for those polls!

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How to Respond to High-Profile Suicides

Content/trigger warning: suicide, saneism

Ugh.

I don’t want to do this.

But I probably should while it’s topical, so here we go: shitty ways to respond to high-profile suicide and why they’re shitty. Oh, wait, one more thing; I have already covered the “coward’s way out” and “but they were rich and famous” crap here, so I’m not going to touch on those again.

  • Neurotypicals going “You’re not alone! Here is a link to a suicide hotline.” We know suicide hotlines exist. We also know that a hotline is an emergency measure that is not a substitute for long-term care and support. And my queer Autistic ass is not going to call a hotline when I’ll probably become nonverbal because I fucking can’t do phones and the hotline operator would have no idea how to handle my being queer and might even call it a mental illness. A lot of those hotlines aren’t accessible to Disabled people or LGBTQIAP+ people.
  • Neurotypicals encouraging people who are suicidal to “reach out”. In many ways, this is no better than “meditation and juice cleanses will cure your depression”. Depression can be a lying bastard. Many depressed people believe that if they reached out, no one would care or want to listen. Also, what is reaching out going to do if a person’s friends and family aren’t supportive? Maybe they don’t have anyone to reach out to. Maybe the only people they could reach out to would gaslight them about how they have no real problems. (This happened to me in high school.)
  • Neurotypicals going “This is proof that even money and fame don’t cure depression!” Well, yeah, I kind of get where you’re coming from, but…you’re neurotypical. Shut up.
  • Any other ways that neurotypicals who have never experienced suicidal ideation can act like they know what it’s like to experience it, or acting like they have more authority than actually mentally ill people on the subject. Looking at you, neurotypical psych professionals.
  • I hate to say this, but there are people who behave shittily in every group, and unfortunately, I have seen MI people acting like their experiences with depression are the only experiences with depression. This can take the form of “well, I have depression and I haven’t killed myself!”. Don’t get me wrong, that is an accomplishment, and the words of people who have actually been suicidal are the ones that matter the most in this conversation. But depression is a diverse illness. Your depression may not be everybody’s depression.
  • Medication-shaming. I can’t fucking believe I actually saw this, but I did. I even saw someone (who is ND!! What the fuck!?) sharing bogus pseudoscience that attempted to prove that antidepressants are of no help to people with suicidal ideation. I know so many people who are still alive thanks to antidepressants. Not to mention that while the pharmaceutical industry is ableist, violent, and capitalist, the fact that many MI people need our meds to function and/or fucking NOT DIE remains unchanged. It’s possible to criticize “Big Pharma” without medication-shaming people who are trying to take care of themselves.
  • On the other hand, “this is why you get medication and therapy!” isn’t appropriate either, because medication and therapy aren’t right for everyone. Some people have contraindications to medication. Some people can’t find therapists who are qualified to deal with their issues or who don’t suck. Don’t presume you know what’s right for someone who isn’t you.
  • NOT USING TRIGGER WARNINGS. FOR FUCK’S SAKE, PEOPLE. I don’t care if you’re ND or NT; suicide is one of the most potentially triggering subjects out there.

“So, Mara,” you may be asking, “how do I respond to high-profile suicides without sucking?” Well, I’ll tell you.

Be there for your friends and other loved ones. You can’t know which of the people in your life is hurting just by looking at them. Make sure everyone you care about knows that you would support them if they had a mental health issue. Be there when things are good, because otherwise, no one will know to reach out to you when things are bad.

Also, be prepared to say more than “that’s rough, buddy” (unless you’re making an Avatar: The Last Airbender reference). You know your friend; figure out what they want to hear that will help them understand that you care and that they matter to you. It’s also totally fine to ask people what kind of emotional support they need when they’re struggling, or how they prefer to be asked (or not asked) when they need to talk. And don’t panic or freak out when your mentally ill loved one has symptoms, even “scary” ones other than suicidal ideation. Unreality, hypersexuality, dual diagnosis, impulsiveness, the works; don’t be that person who is supportive of a mentally ill friend until they show symptoms.

You don’t have to plaster performative allyship all over your social media feeds. You can share suicide hotlines, but make sure you share ones that are for LGBTQIAP+ people and are as disability accessible as possible. You can also donate to charities that provide those services, such as The Trevor Project.

Okay, I think that’s about all I have for now. This is not an easy subject for me to talk about.