Guest opinion: Let's talk about suicide
Media often avoid reporting about suicide. Sometimes this is for good reason, out of fear regarding a real phenomenon called suicide contagion, aka "copycat suicide." Studies show that certain ways the media report about suicide can inadvertently contribute to contagion. Sometimes news organizations have policies, written or simply understood, that suicide is a topic that is off limits except for rare occasions.
So I want to take a moment to thank the Pleasanton Weekly for your recent in-depth reporting of suicide (Sept. 29). Thank you for including common warning signs of suicide, national and local resources for those in crisis, and tips on how loved ones can help those who might be at risk. Thank you for also giving voice to those left behind after a suicide death, a place that can be so very lonely, painful and still carries much stigma.
As a mom whose son died by suicide and as a volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), I want to encourage more dialogue, not less. No good can come from keeping suicide a secret. No good can come from sticking our heads in the sand, while the suicide rate continues to rise. We need more talk about it, accurately and responsibly. We need to advocate for more funding for research and effective prevention programs, not only for our youth. (Currently, the age group most at risk for suicide is middle-aged men and women between 45 and 64.) And we need the media to be our partners, so together we can elevate this conversation and reduce suicide.
The general public can help, too. Please take a moment to learn more about suicide by visiting www.afsp.org. AFSP has more than 50 chapters across the U.S, including the Greater San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, which is doing much work locally to reduce suicide in our communities. For example, we recently partnered with the University of California to implement our Interactive Screening Program on all 10 UC campuses as well as at Ohlone Community College. We have provided area high schools with our educational films on teen depression, called "More Than Sad: Teen Depression," to help students and teachers recognize when a student might need help. We also have a Survivor Outreach Program for newly bereaved individuals and families.
The chapter hosted two fundraising and awareness walks in October. You can learn more about walks at www.outofthedarkness.org. If you have lost someone you love to suicide, please know that you are not alone, although it can often feel that way. To help those bereaved by suicide, we will be hosting six local conferences during International Survivors of Suicide Day, Nov. 17, one of which will be held in Livermore. Register at livermoresosday.eventbrite.com
To quote our Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, "Suicide prevention is everyone's business." I hope the Pleasanton Weekly will continue to talk about this important issue and I hope its readers will get more involved. To learn more about the chapter, please email SFbayArea@afsp.org.
--Shirley Kaminsky is a founding member of the Greater San Francisco Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She facilitates the Tri-Valley Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group, and has resided in the Tri-Valley for over 40 years. She can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 872-5634.