Author of The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook
The 2020 pandemic and various crises created by and around the lockdowns and other measures to contain it are creating profound mental health consequences for many people. This brings to attention the issue of suicide in specific, the 10th of September was the official Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day. Since 2003, the entire month of September has been dedicated to raising awareness of the problem.
The 2021 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s message to help spread the word about prevention actions for 2021 is #BeThe1To. Lifeline networks and their partners, organizations, and community members also direct efforts towards healing, family support, and giving hope.
How does this relate to us as preppers and what can we do about it?
As a prepper and a family and community member, I try my best not to focus exclusively on my own survival and health but also on friends’ and relatives’ well-being. As a human being, I worry about the collective too, others around me in general like coworkers, my community, etc.
There’s also a secondary aspect that practically relates to prepping and survivalism (even if indirectly), which I will discuss more at the end of this article.
The mind controls everything
One aspect of prepping that has always been at the top of my list is building psychological fortitude and the mindset necessary to deal with hardship, pain, and discomfort.
Each one of us should have our strategies for that. When facing challenges like those presented by SHTF (even a near or slow-burning SHTF), mind matters become more relevant and defining.
Becoming mentally and psychologically stronger can be good for others around us
Mutual support is one very effective way to go through difficult times. One day we’re helping someone. The next it can be us on the receiving end.
We’re seeing many people having difficulty or even failing to cope with the situation during the pandemic. Depression and especially suicide are serious and can destroy the lives of those affected and many others around them.
I’ve had a couple of cases happening recently in parts of my family, one of a fifteen-year-old girl who killed herself with her father’s pistol. It’s disheartening and also worrying.
Understanding suicide prevention techniques is one way you can help others dealing with despair.
Is the number of suicides increasing?
One recent study tried to examine suicides occurring in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in various countries and came out with a surprising result:
“Concerns have been expressed that, at their most extreme, these consequences could manifest as increased suicide rates. We aimed to assess the early effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide rates around the world.
In high-income and upper-middle-income countries, suicide numbers have remained largely unchanged or declined in the early months of the pandemic compared with the expected levels based on the pre-pandemic period.”
The study concludes with an alert, though:
“We need to remain vigilant and be poised to respond if the situation changes as the longer-term mental health and economic effects of the pandemic unfold.”
Apparently, suicide rates tend to recede in the early moments of most crises and grow again after some time. Some specialists alert to possible underreporting in cases, which is something to pay attention to as well.
It’s been really bad for many, in many ways
Granted, some people perform better under pressure. But only sociopaths and psychopaths are genuinely immune to emotional ups and downs.
The struggle is real when it comes to the effects of something as serious and widespread as a pandemic. It’s like another disease: different from the virus but equally painful and devastating. The financial problems, the isolation, the job loss, the loss of loved ones, the uncertainty, the divisiveness…the list of troubles goes on and on. The emotional roller-coaster can affect even our physical health, leading to even more stress and anxiety.
“Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow.”
I first heard that from my grandfather, and it stuck. I got into prepping during the crisis of 2008. Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, I’ve been dedicating a lot more time to helping others.
One way is by raising awareness and sharing my experiences and knowledge in any way I can with as many people as possible. My books and contributions to The Organic Prepper complement the direct mentoring work in street survivalism I do around here.
Those work to help myself as well, I admit: objectively, teaching is also a way to find (and patch) holes in our strategies, and I say that much in my first book.
Sometimes good intentions aren’t enough
I’ve also taken part in a suicide prevention support training program to learn more about it.
It takes 12 to 14 weeks (or about 50 hours) of training to become a suicide prevention support volunteer. The first sessions are monitored and supervised by longtime and experienced professionals.
We all carry a heavy “emotional baggage,” and it’s very hard not to let it influence in some way, whether consciously or not. It’s a solemn responsibility to open up to others in emotional distress and need, and it takes training to do it properly and efficiently.
There are many pitfalls too
Not everyone reaching out is a potential suicide. These are, in fact, a very small percentage of callers. The great majority comprises loners, abandoned people, depressives, men and women trapped in oppressing relationships or other humiliating situations, and lots of people just looking for a chat with an anonymous person. There are many curious, too.
Some people are ill-mannered, and many can also have bad intentions. Commonly, sexual deviants and offenders call to prey on an attendant. Sociopaths and revolts also call looking for someone to lash out. Even good-intentioned callers can be manipulative and wily.
Some widespread myths can do more harm than good
When trying to give support to people suffering psychologically and emotionally, listening is indeed the first step.
But it takes a lot more than good intentions and passive listening to help people in difficulty. It’s actually quite easy to do more hard than good due to the many myths surrounding the issue.
Back to the topic of suicide prevention, here are some of my findings and lessons learned that could help with detecting and perhaps helping others in need.
Be attentive to red flags
It’s true that people intent on taking their own life plan the act and give clues they’re about to commit suicide. The closer we are (friends, brothers, parents, coworkers, etc.), the easier it is to “catch” these signals early on.
It’s not an A+B=C thing, though, much less about ticking a list. Instead, with those you know, suicide prevention is an emotional connection, something more intuitive. Trust your feelings. If you feel something’s wrong or different with the person in question, look for help.
Listening and giving support sounds easy, but it requires training and attention
Suicide prevention groups around the world employ specific techniques to provide effective support. The assistance is based on non-judging, non-guiding, unbiased, plain-hearing strategies. It’s also 100% confidential and anonymous on both ends of the line.
Listening is different than hearing. Society has conditioned us to “hear” others without actually paying attention: 90% of the time, we’re more centered in our own thoughts and arguments, even when the topic is of high interest. The fact is that most of us are much better talkers than listeners. Also, we tend to avoid difficult topics conversations or deflect unwanted conversations.
Flipping those switches is really hard and something that we can only achieve actively and consciously. But it’s the only way to create genuine connections and real empathy. Some people do it naturally, but most of us need to focus and work on it.
Other common mistakes in suicide prevention
Some strategies are unproductive or even harmful. In general, trying any subtle or indirect approach to convince, nudge, influence, direct, manipulate, appease, or even speak out our opinions is verboten. Specifically, anyone trying to help others in despair should avoid the following:
- Condemning (Saying that taking one’s own life is something crazy, or weakness, etc.);
- Lecturing (Offering solutions, counsels, tell her person to forget and move on);
- Trivializing (Saying things such as “there are worse things in life,” or that the person “has been through worse’, or that ‘there’s always someone else going through something worse,” etc. );
- “Positive pushing” or incentivizing (For example, telling the person to think positive, that life is good, that there’s always a silver lining to everything, etc.).
- Giving specific advice (This is akin to tell the person that they don’t know what’s best for them).
- Investigating (Asking too much or trying to get into details and personal information)
- Telling personal stories (Ah, the ego. Who cares what some anonymous Joe or Jane has to tell, or did/didn’t do in this or that situation? Certainly not the person suffering an emotional breakdown and calling you for help).
What can work: genuine empathy
The local CVV (lifeline support center) has a “Person-Centered Attention” method—a strategy based on the principles listed above and some others. Voluntaries are trained to avoid mistakes, even subtle ones, that can cause the retraction of the assisted.
To establish a genuine connection with another person, we must strip from our biases, prejudices, and judgments. As well, our religious, sexual, political, social beliefs, opinions, and even let our personal experiences aside to truly put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understand their feelings.
As I said, it’s easier said than done. But in doing that, we can then reach and provide help to almost anyone.
How this helps us
Humans are very complex, and working with support is really, really hard and taxing – psychologically, emotionally, and to be honest, even physically.
But in the end, it’s also a huge lesson in empathy and human psychology – if we can manage to stay at the same time detached and connected to all these facets of behavior and psyche.
We can employ the knowledge acquired, the empathy developed, and many other aspects to improve ourselves, our personal and social lives, relationships, and even our professional lives. According to my limited experience and what others more involved with human (or animal) assistance say, it can be soothing for the soul.
We don’t have to take part in an organization
These things can be done in private forms, daily, or whenever and however we can. However, going out there and joining others has the added bonus of revealing that, as bad as things may be, there are always many people doing good things. Helping the world become a slightly better place is very rewarding and positive.
Suicide prevention help is available
- National Suicide Prevention Line: 800-273-8255
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)
- Crisis Hotline: Text HOME to 741-741
- This website lists global suicide hotlines: International Suicide Hotlines
What advice do you have for those struggling with their mental health?
If you’ve ever struggled with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, what did you find that helped you the most? Share your hard-earned wisdom on suicide prevention in the comments. You never know when a simple comment on a website might make a true difference in somebody’s life.
Please note that the comments will be strictly moderated regarding the topic of suicide prevention. As much as words from a stranger can help a person who is struggling, they can also harm.
Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.
Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times.
You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor
A very brave article Fabian, thank you.
As we say in The Church; ” Know Jesus, know Peace of Mind, no Jesus, no Peace of Mind”.
Yes, Seminole, When you know The Creator in your heart, the Peace is profound. And for me, that was indeed what switched me from wishing G-d had never made me and I did not have to bother with the struggle for Life, to–abiding joy.
But you don’t get that connection thru dogma or screeching some creed or Name aloud and pretending. You get it from service to others and especially, stop looking externally for some moon in the sky and search within, in your heart area for that Center of the Energy of Love. There is your truest Self. Serving that Great-Joy-of-Love is infinite happiness.
Very glad to see this addressed here. Much-needed and well written – thank you!
As a chapter leader for a ladies’ shooting group, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture on suicide prevention through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I learned a LOT and hope to work with them further in the future, once my season of life allows further community involvement. Our August meeting was actually about safe storage and transport and several ladies were unaware of the statistics and how firearms owners can help.
Definitely an issue to address in the preparedness community, if only because there are folks prepping who own firearms or associate with people who do, thus allowing possible access for folks considering suicide. NSSF and also Hold My Guns are great options for learning how we can help prevent unauthorized access and support fellow firearms owners who might need items stored while they work through things in life and feel safe around them again. The AFSP is working with the National Shooting Sports and the Veterans Administration to help folks in the USA – similar organizations may be available in other countries, offering outreach and support. Hold My Guns is more about storage and will help people find storage issues through participating gun shops, law enforcement, etc. – their program offers support to shops/agencies who want to help as well.
(For those concerned about medication options, your local pharmacist may have resources on similar organizations and storage methods. The AFSP has many resources for family and friends, as well as individuals considering suicide – they are not limited to firearms information, they are simply partnering with the industry to help.)
This is where and why the odd humor of the military comes in.
Yeah you need to listen and do all the psycobabble but sometimes you just need to be able to embrace the suck, laugh at the irony and know that others are there.
You know that day when y’all lose a man, when your being told that extra money your making in the combat zone isn’t enough and ya figure out she’s cheating on ya and you left right after the child was born and now she’s walking and the shelling starts and there’s a guy running to the fighting position in his underwear, body armor and has a rubber glove pulled over his head like a rooster and you still laugh.
That’s what you need around you when it’s all going to sh..
I lost my husband to suicide two years ago. He was an ex-Marine and struggled with depression as well as having the psychological effects of lifelong untreated ADHD.
ADHD is a neurological disorder that is caused by large sections of the brains frontal lobe not functioning with activity. Many look at it as simply not having enough self discipline. It’s not related to self-discipline at all and causes a great deal of psychological damage in our society.
My husbands family kept information private that would have helped us in seeing the mental changes my husband went through and allowed clarification and understanding to see the behaviors for what they were. If they had been honest and open, I would have been able to get targeted help for my husband by knowing that a certain mental disease runs in the family and appears in the life time frame that my husband began to change personality.
My advice. Be open and honest. Pride and shame kept us from information that would have had me seeking the help we needed. Make sure your kids know what health issues of all kinds have been present in the family line. Their life may depend on it.
As survivors of my husbands devastating and damaging mental illness and and survivors of the aftermath of a loved ones suicide, my daughter and myself have had a very difficult road, one that doesn’t look like it will ever get easier at times. We keep pushing on, always in survival mode.
Mental health is often an overlooked aspect of life in general and in prepping. It has a stigma that keeps struggles in the background and hidden for fear of looking weak. I’m grateful for this article and hope that it Spurs many to look at the issue and honestly evaluate their mental health.
Thanks for sharing this Dragonmaker. My deepest condolences for your loss. I lost my husband to suicide 11 years ago. Had I known that mental illness ran in the family I might have known how to help and I beat myself up over this every day, but I carry on because of our children, twins. Daughter is in therapy and taking meds, but son has autism and the therapy out here for him is non existent due to the plandemic and “covid”. And thanks for this article Fabian. I keep pushing on as well, in survival mode.
This is a great topic. One that will be even more important during SHTF.
The one thing we must realize though is that no matter how much you know about this topic, you might still be at risk.
“In the US, physicians have the highest suicide rate of any profession (28 to 40 per 100,000), more than double that of the general population (12.3 per 100,000).
What’s more, of all the medical specialties, psychiatry is near the top in terms of suicide rates.
Psychiatrists are killing themselves at a higher rate than people serving in the military.
Let that sink in for a minute.”
Allowing your self to be overburdened with what is happening in your life and the lives of those around you, is a large part of suicide risk. Especially when connected to feelings hopelessness or of being overwhelmed by the current situation.
Another thing to watch for, is that not all Suicides are overt acts. Some are or will be ommissions of actions, that are likely to result in death. We have seen this in various scenarios. Where people refuse to flee a forest fire or volcanic event, prefering to perish, rather than flee.
This may be the basis of some of the “bug in” mentality. They would rather die, than flee their homes in the face of SHTF.
During SHTF this will be an ever present danger, as the scenario in itself tends to be depressive and more or less “hopeless”.
Some Preppers might experience this prior to SHTf if they feel they can not Prep enough or bear the pressures or experiences related to a SHTF scenario.
One of the things that our Athestic society and teaching will not admit, is the lack of Religion in ones life, is a big factor in feeling hopeless and all alone in the world.
Suicide is on the increase and having Religion is on the decrease, though many professionals refuse to see the correlation due to their personal and professional prejudice against Religion.
Hope is the “cure” for Suicide and Depression. This article is helpful in showing how to work towards spreading that “cure”. Sometimes just knowing someone really cares about them, is enough to do the job.
Re “only sociopaths and psychopaths are genuinely immune to emotional ups and downs”…
More vital than that, what these monsters do is a major force responsible for most suicides. Why? Because a bunch of psychopaths govern the world. But it is only ONE part of the equation. The true, WHOLE, but “politically inconvenient” and “culturally forbidden” reality is more encompassing. Read “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” by Rolf Hefti at https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html
Without a proper understanding, and full acknowledgment, of the true problem and reality, no real constructive change is possible.
“Red flags” aren’t always obvious. I once was organising an event, and I knew one of my volunteers suffered from depression and had been suicidal in the past, but when I talked with him, he seemed quite normal and eager to do his part, so I assumed that it was a good time for him. On the day of the event, he didn’t show up. Only later I found out that the very same day he had attempted suicide again. I was shocked, because he had been with us on the last meeting before the event when we were checking that everything was ready, and he had seemed so normal. His girlfriend assured me that it was like that with him: one day he’d be apparently fine, the next he’d be suicidal.
As someone who has struggled with suicideal ideation daily for the better part of 40-something years (and yes, some of my earliest thoughts that I remember were wishing not to exist), it really can be that simple to flip the switch between a “good day” and a “bad day.” I’ve come to realize that being raised by a narcissitic mother and an alcoholic stepfather were a disaster in the making for a home life. There is a name for what I think me and several other family members have struggled with, but in a nutshell there’s a lot of anxiety and depression and self-loathing. My older brother shot himself in 2006, and my niece from my older sister killed herself a couple days later (completely separate and apart from my brother’s act). She had a bad break-up. He had been waiting for the opportunity for years. I also had a great-uncle who killed himself right before he retired. When we’re good, we’re great. When we’re not, we hurt ourselves.
No one in my family knows that I suffer from anything other than some anxiety and depression. I’m not even sure why I’m saying it here other than to point out that “red flags” aren’t going to save us all. Trust me, I’ve got a plan, I’ve had a plan, and if I decide to act on it there’s not going to be any stopping me. But….I sometimes wake up in the morning and say, heh. Still alive!
Don’t blame yourselves, those of you who have lost people to suicide. Trust me when I say, it wasn’t you. The pain overrides the survival instinct.
I too was raised in a narcissistic home and learned early not to show my emotions because no one cared. One parent believed that “children should be seen but not heard”.The other parent had a roller-coaster ride of emotions from one day to the next, could keep lists of everyone who did her ‘wrong’. I never knew a healthy relationship, even my boyfriends were narcissistic.
I looked on youtube and found several people who know about narcissistic parents and the craziness they put their children though-the self-doubt, the flip-flop of emotions,etc.It started to make sense, the trauma was real and the pain was real.Once I started processing that,getting that anger out,putting responsibility on THEM, etc it’s like the fog cleared. Suicide was a thought ,but it was a line I would not cross…
One thing I found helpful, and have suggested to others, is to have a “Suicide Day”. I was distraught, at the end of my rope. As with many people who do commit suicide I didn’t want to DIE; I just wanted the pain to stop. Knowing tomorrow would come and present another way “OUT”, I said to myself, “OK, I just killed myself. My life just ended. Now let’s see what happens tomorrow — and after that.” Tomorrow came. My life continued. I survived the trough of my life. A couple more times I just wanted to FLEE, to RUN AWAY, and held a Suicide Day. I’ve learned to manage the life-things which caused me to feel like I wanted the pain to just END; I choose to remain in it all and keep my commitment. MY CHOICE.
Rather than uttering the platitude, “Oh, things always get better,” (which, of course, they don’t), saying, “Today, I DID it,” but not actually doing it, established my feeling in control rather than like a life-beaten victim. It has worked for me.
In Venezuela, the rate spiked by 153% within 2015-2019. Kids and teenagers are joining in, too.
Mind you, once the gang seized the power back in 2003, these statistics stopped being published:
A sad reality.
Hi there Jose.
Yes, a sad reality I agree.
You know they stop publishing these things as information control, but also because the institutions responsible for gathering and compiling these statistics are defunded, right? It’s the same here, once things start getting bad. How convenient don’t you think?
And unfortunately the increase in suicide rates among the young is a trend worldwide. This is not good, not at all.
And thanks for the links, solid info there. 153% increase in just 4 years is surreal, it’s more than epidemic it’s nearly apocalyptic. The national rate here also increased, certainly not nearly that much but still goes against the worldwide trend that receded by almost 10% in the same period.
It’s not just the economy of course, something like that has a lot to do with the loss of freedom and liberty and the oppression that took place in Venezuela. But the economy is also a source of suffering as we know, eh?
This is a very painful subject for me as my oldest son took his life a little over 3 years ago. It’s so complex. We all did Everything we knew to do. The depression and hopelessness would overcome him and in the end he lost hope. He wasn’t a looser and hid it well from most. He was an amazing worker but the darkness was just so great. So my advice? First don’t judge. The bio chemical component is very real. And no, there isn’t always a ” cure”. But for most it ebbs and flows and there are great times among the struggles. You’re not defective because of this. It’s been around forever. It is possible to have a good life inspite of it. Just as others have struggles such as cerebral palsy or other challenges. I believe just being there and not judging or pretending you understand unless you actually do deal with it can help. I believe having support groups where you share with others who struggle this way could be encouraging and offer helpful coping strategies.
I’m sorry for your loss. Your advice is priceless