Written by Rithika Ramkumar
Much of the time, when suicide is discussed, much of the focus goes towards at-risk populations, such as people with mental health disorders and young people. Many solutions and intervention strategies are brought forward to prevent people from feeling like their only way out is to take their own life. However, less attention is brought to those who attempt suicide but, fortunately, survive. What’s next? How can we help?
International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day was November 19, 2022 this year, and aims to provide a day and a space for survivors of suicide to come forward, share their story, and connect and find hope with others in similar situations. International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is also known as Survivors Day, brought forward in 1999 by Senator Harry Reid, who had lost his own father to suicide. Congress ratified the day into national recognition here in América, and occurs on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, as holidays can often be a difficult time of year for suicide survivors (“International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.”).
For survivors of suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) often holds events across the country. Most states and major cities have a branch of AFSP available for outreach, including Baltimore. International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day isn’t just limited to those who have attempted suicide; those who have been affected by suicide in other forms, such as the loss of a loved one, are also invited and encouraged to contact the AFSP if they ever need support and are welcome to come to any and all events (Caiazza).
The creation of a nationally recognized day for acknowledging those affected by suicide is not a small thing. Over centuries, the view and stigma around suicide has changed drastically. In religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, suicide had long been categorized as a sin, and in much of Europe, suicide was categorized as a crime until the 1800s (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Removing the stigma and decriminalizing suicide is critical to increasing dialogue about mental health and helping people who feel suicidal.
After the creation of Survivors Day, the US and the globe took many leaps forward to aiding those with mental health issues. In 2001, the US created “A National Strategy for Suicide Prevention”, in 2004 passed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which distributes grants and funding to states, tribes, and territories for suicide prevention efforts, and in 2010 created the Swift Response, which created a network between the public and private sectors to reframe the national conversation about suicide and increase cooperation between suicide prevention efforts (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).