All over the world today, September 10, there are events happening in support of World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). The International Association for Suicide Prevention is having its annual campaigns for anyone from anywhere in the world to join: Cycle Around the Globe and Light a Candle.
I’ve tried searching online for any organized events in the Philippines for WSPD but found none. However, this doesn’t mean we Filipinos can’t do anything to show our support for suicide prevention. Apart from cycling and lighting a candle to show support, here are some suggestions:
1. Sign the petition for the Philippines’ first Mental Health Act
Perhaps we don’t hear much about suicide in the Philippines, with exception of some cases that made recent headlines. The 2014 global report on preventing suicide by the World Health Organization says that the Philippines has the lowest rate of suicide among ASEAN countries.
A low statistic, however, doesn’t mean it’s negligible. In that same report, WHO estimates that the number of suicides in the Philippines in 2012 was 2,558. That’s 2,558 lives we weren’t able to save.
Whether or not we know anyone who may need psychiatric help, we can support the initiative by the Philippine Psychiatric Association to lobby for the Philippine government to provide programs for mental health.
“An initiative by the Philippine Psychiatric Association, the Mental Health Act aims to protect the rights of people with mental disorders and/or disabilities by putting in place an official body that will oversee the policies and programs that need to be developed to prevent and treat mental illnesses, and to promote the mental health of Filipinos.”
2. Educate yourself about mental illnesses, the signs of suicidal thoughts and how you can help prevent suicide.
There are many free online resources to help people understand mental illnesses such as depression. I found this video about depression by the World Health Organization to be very simple, straightforward and enlightening.
The website SuicideIsPreventable.org tells us how to 1) know the signs, 2) find the words, and 3) reach out.
In the Philippines, the Natasha Gouldbourn Foundation aims to promote understanding of depression as an illness and how it can lead to suicide. They have various programs and resources to educate and empower communities about depression and suicide prevention.
3. Show your support online through words and images of kindness and encouragement.
Filipinos are very fond of social media. We can use this in a positive way by making it a channel for expressing our support and reaching out. We can post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and where else we frequent. Our positive words and images may get someone, friend or stranger, to speak out and seek help.
Some self-promotion here. I started a webpage called WordKind. It’s a Facebook Page that aims to collect words of kindness and encouragement for those who are dealing with depression, bullying, isolation and hopelessness. It aims to show our care and concern for them, to remind them that they are valued and that they can be helped.
Please visit WordKind (WordKindNotes) and post your notes, handwritten and photographed or written directly on the page, to show your support for suicide prevention.
World Suicide Prevention Day may only be one day, and Suicide Prevention Month is only one month, but we can show our support year-round by being there to listen when someone we know may be suffering, by watching out for signs of mental illness or suicidal thoughts, and by being open-minded about talks of mental health, mental illness and suicide prevention.