Posted on October 22, 2019
The question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” feels rather unsettling. A few months ago, I became a Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) instructor with 13 of my colleagues in the state of Delaware. We practiced asking our peers this challenging question and it didn’t get any easier each additional time we said it out loud. In 2017, more than 47,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide, making it one of the leading causes of death. There were more than twice as many suicides that year as there were homicides. The more that we empower the people in our community to get trained in YMHFA and learn how to speak to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, the more likely the number of suicides will start to decrease.
This training doesn’t require a special degree or license. Just like any medical First Aid class, YMHFA teaches you the basics. First Aid can teach you how to help someone who is choking or injured; YMHFA will teach you how to support someone who is having a panic attack or suicidal ideations. This training goes beyond suicide prevention: We also learn about psychosis, traumatic events, and even substance use disorders.
One eye-opening activity we did was on the everyday language that we use. I never realized how many times a day I say, “Oh, that’s crazy!” or “Wow, this is nuts!” – until I realized I shouldn’t be using the words “crazy” and “nuts” in the first place. There’s such a stigma around discussing mental health needs and every time I say “crazy” or “nuts,” I’m only perpetuating the problem. I wonder how many people are afraid to talk about their mental health challenges for fear of being referred to as “psycho,” “nuts,” “insane,” or something else.
I challenge you to consider the vocabulary you use every single day as being a part of a larger issue regarding mental health stigma. Try thinking of alternate words to use that don’t have such a negative connotation. YMHFA and Mental Health First Aid trainings pop up around the state from time to time. I encourage you to sign up for one!
Suicide Statistics Source: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml