Established therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can address distorted, negative thinking and can be extremely effective for disorders like depression and anxiety. But the demand for these treatments exceeds the resources available. New innovations are sorely needed to fill the gaps, not to replace existing models of treatment, but to extend basic practices of mental well-being to the general public.
Suicide prevention is all of our responsibility. As we work together with the Trevor Project and others to spread the message that it's okay to ask for help, let's not forget about the equally important message that it's okay to reach out with a helping hand even before someone works up the courage to ask for help.
Suicide does not happen in a vacuum -- it happens in families. Family members must play a role in suicide prevention. To do this, they need to know how suicidality arises and how they can help. They need to know the danger and warning signs of suicide, the risk factors, and how suicidality and mental health are linked.
While suicide risk may last a few months, the actual time that a person plans a suicide attempt before acting is quite brief -- often a few minutes to an hour. The Safety Planning Intervention helps people recognize when they are entering this danger zone and provides ways to deescalate to prevent a suicide attempt.
During the spring semester of 2002, while I was teaching my creative-writing class at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, a student finally shared and read aloud a poem that he had just written. And after he read, our jaws dropped with amazement, our eyes widened with shock, our brows curled with concern, our hearts stopped with empathy, and our bodies froze with fear.
Despite my best attempts to end my life, my medical team and my family eventually helped me to rebuild it. I ended up being quite fortunate. Many of my strange inclinations went away with time. Bit by bit, everything started to feel natural once again. I resumed most of my previous habits. I reconnected emotionally with my loved ones. I lived.