Suicide Prevention - the wrong approach?

Yesterday was world mental health day. The theme of this years mental health day was ‘suicide prevention’.

I struggle with this concept. Suicide prevention? What about preventing people from becoming depressed in the first place?

Depression isn’t simply ‘feeling sad’, or having issues coping with a loss - ie a normal part of grieving. Depression often comes on with no discerning reason, to those who on the outside appear to ‘have it all’. It’s complex, complicated and confusing. However aiming to just ‘prevent suicide’ leads us to fall way short of where we should be aiming - which is building resilient people who are living the best possible lives despite what life may throw at them. For this we need a whole new revolution in mental health care.

This starts when we are young. Teaching young people resilience so they can bring this into adulthood. It also starts with providing safe places where people who are struggling can access free immediate mental health skills and support.

It also starts with approaching each of the areas that support mental health and well being - which includes everything from the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the Mental Health Foundations Five Ways to Wellbeing. It needs to cover all aspects of mental health care. We know that there are many things which impact our mental health: Nutrition, poverty, ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences). Psychological aspects including low self esteem, being unemployed, having no sense of purpose, job dissatisfaction. Trauma, physical illness, endocrine disorders.

Suicide prevention is about preventing people from taking that last final act - mental health wellness (or well-being) focuses on ensuring people are very far from the cliff face of suicide. Let’s have mental wellness as the focus of our mental health - and something we pay attention to everyday.