It’s National Suicide Prevention Week, and a new poll gives mental health advocates reason to feel encouraged. The vast majority of Americans (89%) value mental health equally to physical health, and understand how critical the role our mental health is in how we feel, function and experience life. More than nine out of 10 Americans feel that health services that address mental health, such as treatment for depression and suicide prevention, are fundamental to overall health and should be part of any basic health care plan. The survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Anxiety Depression Association of America, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, also found that almost everyone (94%) believes that suicide can be prevented.
Most people (93% of respondents) reported that they would do something if they learned someone close to them was thinking about suicide, and 78% would encourage the person to seek help. These are promising numbers.
Why It’s Important to Talk (and Listen)
The survey results also suggest that suicide prevention advocates need to do a better job of showing people what they can do if they are concerned about someone. Almost half of the respondents said that something might discourage them from reaching out, primarily the worry that they might make the person feel worse or because they wouldn’t know what to say. To learn more about how to talk to someone in distress, we have a resource available called “Talk Saves Lives,” a guide to help you have these important conversations.
One of our main messages is that talk saves lives, and the survey showed people are willing to disclose to a trusted person in their life: 67% of respondents said they would tell someone if they were having thoughts of suicide. No one should have to live with suicidal thoughts alone, which are far more common than people realize. Counter to common misconceptions, they do not stem from weakness but rather a combination of health and life stressors. Talking about it is the first step toward getting help.
Breaking Down Barriers Preventing People from Seeking Help
Most respondents felt that the biggest barriers preventing people from seeking help are helplessness (74%), or not knowing how to get help (68%). Finding a mental health professional and scheduling an appointment should be as routine as finding any other healthcare provider. Treatment works: 82% found in-person psychotherapy helpful, and 75% found prescription medication helpful. As the research uncovers new ways to manage these illnesses, the treatments are only going to get better.
You can view the full report here. You can also help suicide prevention advocates get the word out during National Suicide Prevention Week. Spread the word on social media to let people know that together we can #StopSuicide.
Dr. Christine Moutier joined AFSP as the Chief Medical Officer in 2013. She has testified before the U.S. Congress on suicide prevention and has appeared as an expert in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist and other outlets.