Ryan C. Warner, Ph.D., CRC
Promoting Mental Wellness to Prevent Suicide
Updated: Jan 18, 2021
On average, at the end of calendar year 2019, one person died every 40 seconds from suicide. Based on these statistics, someone out there may be contemplating suicide, possibly at this very moment. When an individual considers suicide, it may not be that they want to end their life, but instead may want to end the pain they’re currently in. Not knowing how to end this pain can feel like an insurmountable roadblock. When encountering a barrier like this, we may think we need to leap over it in a single stride, or find THE solution to our problems. No doubt that can seem impossible. And if that’s what living looks like, impossible, then one may start to think that dying is their only other option.
Stress is certainly a normal part of our lives, and can be an important catalyst of growth and performance. At times however, our stressors can seem to overwhelm our ability to manage them. If we can be more aware of the common signs of poor stress management, then conquering our stressors may become a little bit more manageable. When stress feels overwhelming, it can impact us physically, mentally, and socially. Physically, we may notice disruption to our sleep patterns or experience appetite changes, which can lead to lower energy and more frequent sickness. We may experience emotional or psychological distress, leading to anger, low motivation, anxiety, or even hopelessness. Furthermore, when chronically distressed we may socially withdraw, isolate, or disengage in activities we once enjoyed. When these responses add on to the original stressors, it can begin to feel unmanageable.
How do we address this? According to Dr. Sue Varma, discussing “The Four Ms of Mental Health" can be helpful.
1. The first M of mental wellness is Meaningful Connection. Establishing meaningful connections with others is a valuable tool in the prevention of suicide. We must be proactive in building and maintaining relationships with others. This doesn’t always come easily, but with some help, strong relationships can be a powerful buffer against stress.
2. Second, engaging in Mastery is essential to promote mental wellness. This involves focusing on your strengths and positive attributes. For instance, when feeling down it may be helpful to reflect on past times of resilience. Hard times can sometimes feel never-ending. Thinking back on experiences in which you have overcome, for instance passing a challenging academic course or finishing a race/competition, can enhance your motivation to endure the current moment.
3. Additionally, practicing Mindfulness can be helpful. Being mindful of our emotions helps us differentiate between what is and what is not in our control. Focusing on what is currently in your control, while also practicing gratitude or being thankful for the good that is present, may help to further promote resilience.
4. The 4th M of Mental Wellness is engaging in Movement. Movement involves both physical activity, like daily exercise, and taking action to manage our stress. Mental wellness, like physical wellness, requires work and intentional exercise of healthy behaviors. We all get to choose how we exercise our mental wellness, whether it be talking to others, engaging in creative activities, or practicing meditation. Whatever we do, it should be regular and intentional.
If you find that you or someone you know is struggling, please seek or offer support. Wellbeing is a team sport, and none of us are expected to perform solo.
American Association of Suicidology
The Dougy Center – The National Center for Grieving Children and Families
How to Talk to a Child about a Suicide Attempt in Your Family (Rocky Mountain MIRECC)
National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
National Organization for People of Color Against Suicide
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Parents, Families, Friends, and Allies United with LGBTQ People (PFLAG)
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
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