I came across this article recently. It relates to the concept that society can make an impact on suicide reduction by limiting the access to means to complete a suicide attempt. It even goes so far as a to state “ “You can reduce the rate of suicide in the United States substantially, without attending to underlying mental health problems, if fewer people had guns in their homes and fewer people who are at risk for suicide had access to guns in their home,” said Dr. Matthew Miller, a director of Harvard Injury Control Research Center and a professor of health sciences and epidemiology at Northeastern University.” Quite the idea that; just take guns away, no need to attend to the underlying mental health problems. That sentiment is scary in its ignorance.
The article has a point, I agree. Many suicide attempts are impulsive and a gun is much less variable in its surety to kill than pills or cutting. Where I disagree strongly with the argument made in this article is in its inference that most people who attempt suicide are doing so on a whim and if they can’t do it easily, with ready access to a lethal means, then the urge will just pass and they’ll be all fine. It’s not that simple or easy to deal with the matter of suicidality. If only it were.
Society gets stuck on the new flash in the pan that will be the easy cure-all for a tough and complex issue. We get caught up in the hype of something that is easy to “fix” – taking guns out of homes (as if that’s easy anyways) – and use that as a tool to stroke the proverbial ego of societal self; saying that we’re doing something to help… we’re doing something so that means we’re making it better… that’s good, isn’t it?
What about educating family practice doctors about mental health issues, warning signs, resources available in their communities and how and when to refer out when it’s over their heads to deal with? What about forcing the issue of funds and resources for the inadequate care facilities and trained practitioners to staff them? What about the putting actual counsellors in the schools, not just teachers with a few extra courses and a keen desire to help… and how about putting in enough of them so that you don’t have support staff with a workload of a few hundred students to “personally” counsel? What about funding for enough counselling services so that someone at risk who has finally asked for help isn’t told that it will be a few months before an appointment can be made? What about, what about, what about…
Getting care and help for mental health issues is such a diverse and multi-faceted issue that it’s not as simple as one or two things to “fix” it. Dialogue, discussion…yes, very needed and it helps but action is what is going to make a difference in the end. Much like actual suicide… someone may talk about it but it’s their action in the end that speaks the loudest. That’s what we need to change – that we, as a collective society and as a whole, listen – and act – before their action.
So how do we “fix” it? I wish I knew. I wish I didn’t feel that it’s futile and that no matter how much we talk, it won’t make a difference. So, I talk and I write, even when I think there’s no point and nothing will come of it.