World Suicide Prevention Day
Author: Justine Rickard M.A.
World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is observed on September 10th every year with the goal of creating dialogue and bringing awareness to suicide in an effort to reduce stigma and advocate for change at public, organizational, and governmental levels. This year marks the 19th year WSPD has been observed and has expanded to more than 60 countries. The two-tone yellow and orange ribbon was created in 2016 as an international symbol for suicide prevention awareness, representing the light of a candle flame.
Social stigma surrounding suicide and suicidal behaviour and ideation continue to create barriers for individuals and loved ones seeking support and accessing potentially life-saving care. One related aspect to reducing stigma is advocating for the decriminalization of suicide, which remains illegal in at least 20 countries with attempted suicide being punishable in a further 20 countries. According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), “the criminalization of attempted suicide undermines national and international suicide prevention efforts and impedes access among vulnerable individuals and groups to suicide prevention and mental health services”. Due to barriers like social stigma and illegality of suicidal behaviour, it is believed that under-reporting and misclassifications lead to far greater risk for those who struggle. According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence to show that decriminalizing and openly talking about suicide leads to an increase on suicide rates. Ending the stigma and talking about suicide is important for creating safer environments for individuals who are struggling.
Although medical complications are the leading cause of death among individuals with eating disorders, suicide is believed to follow closely behind as suicidal behaviour is significantly elevated in eating disorder populations. Studies show that up to 21-43% of individuals diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder will experience suicidal ideation in their lifetime compared to the general population who report lifetime suicidal ideation in the range of 5-15%. Given the significant toll on mental, psychological, social, and physical health for individuals who live with eating disorders, it is no surprise that these populations are at a greater risk (https://www.verywellmind.com/eating-disorders-suicide-4174291). It is important for clients and treatment teams to talk about and assess for individual risks, especially given the impact of COVID-19 on levels of isolation, eating disorder presentation, and other mental health struggles over the last two years.
Suicide prevention depends heavily on the ability to recognize and talk about warning signs that may lead to suicidality. Warning signs include: ideation (suicidal thoughts), substance abuse, purposelessness, anxiety, feeling trapped, hopelessness/helplessness, withdraws, anger, recklessness, and mood changes (https://suicideprevention.ca). Suicide prevention also requires access to care and support. The following resources are available in Canada for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours:
Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868