Tag Archives: suicide prevention

How Filipinos Can Show Support for Suicide Prevention


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.

WordKind logoSome 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.





WordKind: Your Words to Support Suicide Prevention

WordKind logoDo you want to show your support for those around the world who are battling depression, bullying, feelings of isolation or hopelessness? Do you want to help a friend, a relative or a stranger thinking about suicide or self-harm but you don’t quite know how? How about reaching out with words of kindness and encouragement to let them know that they are not alone, that they have people like us who care about them, who value their lives, who are willing to listen without judgment?

Please join me in collecting notes of kindness and encouragement from around the world in WordKind.

Today is the first day of September. September holds a special significance for me. It used to only be about the excitement at the start of the “ber” months, which to me and to many Filipinos signals the start of the Christmas season. Two years ago, September took on a much more somber meaning. On 10 September 2013, a dear friend died by suicide. I learned soon after that September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Last Wednesday, I saw this post on the Facebook page of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) asking if anyone needed suggestions for activities for World Suicide Prevention Day. Like last year, I plan to join IASP’s Cycle Around the Globe and to follow their suggestion to light a candle on September 10. But I wondered if there are any organized activities in the Philippines, especially in Manila. I searched online and found none. I saw that IASP was gathering information about activities from all over the world, including web-based activities. I figured that if I couldn’t join any group activity, I could start a web-based activity that I can share with others.

I believe in the power of words. Words can shape our reality, inspire our spirits and heal our wounds. If there are many others out there like me who are looking for ways to show support for suicide prevention, we can do it through words of kindness published on the Internet. We can put our kind words out there for anyone to read, especially those who need to hear these words, these heartfelt notes of hope and love.

If you believe in the cause of suicide prevention, please consider sharing your words of kindness and encouragement on a new Facebook Page called WordKind, and please share the words with anyone who might need them.  Thank you.





World Suicide Prevention Day and Saving Lives

Candle2WSPDThis year’s World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) is coming to a close. I have cycled in support of Cycle Around the World, in solidarity with many others who are showing support for the cause of suicide prevention. I have my candles lit, in memory of a dear friend and of a relative who died of suicide. Keeping busy today has somehow kept me from grieving personally, allowing me to save it for a quieter day.

This day is about being connected with one another in our grief and loss. It is a day to reach out to victims and survivors of suicide, so we can remind one another that we are not alone and that we can get through this.

It is about finding ways to stay connected with those who are struggling with depression, addiction or other illnesses. Today, we remember to really listen and pay attention to the people around us. We are called to educate ourselves on the warning signs of suicide and what we can do to help prevent suicide.

I rediscovered this song today, “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. For me, this day is about saving lives. We save ourselves from drowning in sorrow or guilt by opening up to and supporting one another. By educating ourselves about suicide prevention, we may end up saving a life from suicide.

Inspire Monday: We Will Cycle Around the Globe

P2790020After almost two years, today I was on my bike again. I took it out of storage, inflated the tires, and wiped away most of the dust. It was time to test my bike and my legs, to see how many kilometers I can add to the Cycle Around the Globe initiative on September 10.

I am joining this cycling event that is part of the World Suicide Prevention Day campaign on September 10 because I want to help spread awareness for suicide prevention. I am moved on a very personal level because September 10 is also the death anniversary of a dear friend of mine who committed suicide.

Today, nine days before the Cycle Around the Globe event, I am also inspired by friends and strangers who also plan to cycle for suicide prevention. Perhaps some of them are avid cyclists, with sleek marathon bikes and pledges of tens of kilometers or miles to cycle. Some are probably recreational cyclists who take their easy riders around the park a few times a week.  Others might be more like me, taking out their long-forgotten bikes and slowly pushing their bodies, their legs again after what feels like ages.

I was able to cycle only 2.5 kilometers today. But I will keep cycling, keep practicing a little bit more in the coming days. And on September 10, whatever distance I am ultimately able to cycle, I am doing it in solidarity with these friends and strangers with whom I share the same cause, the same passion for advocating suicide awareness and prevention.

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Cycling and Candle Lighting for World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10)


It’s fifteen days till September 10, fifteen days till World Suicide Prevention Day, fifteen days till the first death anniversary of my friend who was lost to suicide.

“In 2014, the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day is ‘Suicide Prevention: One World Connected.’ The theme reflects the fact that connections are important at several levels if we are to combat suicide.

Connectedness is crucial to individuals who may be vulnerable to suicide. Studies have shown that social isolation can increase the risk of suicide and, conversely, that having strong human bonds can be protective against it. Reaching out to those who have become disconnected from others and offering them support and friendship may be a life-saving act.”

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) is calling for volunteers to support World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) 2014 by doing these things to show the importance of connectedness and to promote the message of suicide prevention:

1. Cycle Around the World. WSPD aims to collectively cycle the circumference of the globe, which is 40,075 kilometers or 24,900 miles and to have people cycling on every continent.

2. Light a Candle. At 8pm on September 10, light a candle near a window in support of  suicide prevention and awareness, survivors of suicide and for the memory of loved lost ones.

3. Be open to talking and learning about depression and suicide prevention. Promote it on your social networks. Know the signs and the ways you can reach out. Organize your family and friends to cycle, light candles and show support for suicide awareness and prevention.  Donate to IASP or your preferred support group.

I have fifteen days to get my slightly rusted bicycle ready and to get myself in shape to cycle again after almost two cycling-free years (ouch!). I do have my candle ready. And I am getting ready to post this all over my social networks and to invite friends to join me in supporting World Suicide Prevention Day.

How about you?


Why Robin Williams’s Depression and Suicide Matter

robin williamsYesterday, the world was shocked to learn that the great and lovable actor and comedian Robin Williams passed away.

What was personally shocking and heartbreaking for me was that, as of now, preliminary investigations indicate that he died of suicide by asphyxia. That he had hanged himself. And through the many, many articles and tributes online, I learned that he was battling severe depression for many years.

Suddenly, the dots connected. Behind the joy and laughter he exuded and elicited, that personal darkness of depression was there. Despite getting professional help, despite having loving family and friends around him, Robin Williams wasn’t able to keep up the fight.

Indeed, depression doesn’t discriminate. Contrary to popular belief and glamorized notions, depression is not only for the loner, the poor, the unsuccessful. It is not about being sad after a heartbreak, a material or financial loss, or a dream unfulfilled. It is a mental illness that, if kept in the dark and untreated, can be overwhelmingly out of control.

Thousands, perhaps more, people all over the world are mourning the loss of Robin Williams. We are all paying tribute to his legacy by remembering his best works, our favorite lines, our childhood memories of how he made us laugh. But there is another way to honor Robin Williams. We can talk about depression and suicide. We can make more of an effort to understand that depression is, more often than not, hidden from plain sight. We can refrain from judging the collateral damage of suicide, because each person’s journey into depression and/or suicide is different. We can try to be kinder to one another. We can shout out to the world or gently whisper to our friend that throughout the long and dark tunnel, with help all along the way, there is that light. There is that hope.

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Inspire Monday: Kevin Briggs on Suicide Prevention

Through TED Talks, I’ve learned about of Kevin Briggs, a recently retired California Highway Patrol Sergeant and, in my humble opinion, a hero and an inspiration in the work of suicide prevention.

I cannot imagine how I would try to talk someone out of suicide. I would be so afraid of saying the wrong things, so afraid to fail and come face to face with suicide. Kevin Briggs has talked more than two hundred people out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. And now that he has retired, he is still fighting the good fight.

In his TED Talk, Kevin Briggs talked about some of the people he spoke to on the Golden Gate Bridge. He spoke of Kevin Berthia, with whom he spoke on the bridge for an hour and a half. Thankfully, Kevin decided to come back over the rail of the bridge. Kevin Briggs also told the tragic story of Jason Garber. After talking to Kevin Briggs and other patrol officers about his hopelessness, Jason went off the bridge and was gone.

What was perhaps most helpful in Kevin Briggs’s TED Talk was his simple but powerful advice on how to talk to someone who is suicidal. “It’s not just the talking that you do, it’s the listening. Listen to understand. Don’t argue or blame or tell the person you know how they feel. By just being there, you may be the turning point that they need. Also, if you think someone is suicidal, don’t be afraid to confront them. One way of asking them the question is like this: ‘Others in similar circumstances have contemplated ending their life. Have you had those thoughts?’ Other signs to look for are hopelessness, helplessness, recent social withdrawal, and loss of interest in life.”

This TED Talk was entitled The Bridge Between Suicide and Life. If we are ever faced with that situation, Kevin Briggs encourages us to become that bridge. Hopefully, by simply listening to understand, we can be the bridge that helps a friend cross from suicide to life.

(This post is dedicated to a friend who was lost to suicide in 2013. Yesterday was her birthday. She is sorely missed.)