Some of this could be triggering. I’m sorry. I don’t know how else to talk about these things.

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. September was Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The coupling of these two together, like this, is probably accidental. And, yet, it raises all sorts of interesting thoughts for me.

But let me start with a story. Here/Hear has been trying to offer our program for Here/Hear Groups, free of charge, to local schools here in northern Indiana. This has been made possible by a generous grant from the Marshall County Community Foundation. This grant enables us to do suicide prevention and awareness training for teachers and staff as well as setting up Here/Hear Groups. It’s a good thing.

It’s an even better thing because northern Indiana, at the moment, has a suicide problem throughout our population, but especially in our high schools. Within a 20 minute drive from me, 3 people have knowingly attempted suicide with one person dying. This was in a one-week period. And when I talked to our schools, they said there isn’t a problem, there is a bullying problem. 

So, they have free resources that they are not taking advantage of for a problem they refuse to acknowledge that is literally killing people. 

They said the issue is bullying.

Now, it would be disingenuous of me to make bullying and suicide two completely separate entities. They are not. If you are someone who is bullied, you are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and if you are sexually assaulted, you are 3x as likely. So, let’s not pretend there isn’t a correlation between bullying and suicidal thoughts, because there is. And it is good to deal with bullying in ways that bring attention to it. 

However, suicide is much broader than just bullying. It is a bigger issue and bullying is one component of why one would choose to die by their own hand. Bullying may be the most prevalent reason, but it is still only one reason among many. Suicide, then, is much bigger than just bullying. In fact, for every suicide death, there are roughly 25 attempts. And suicide is the only form of death in the Top 10 in the US that is actually on the rise: meaning, we are getting better at stopping heart disease and cancer but can’t figure out (or want to?) how to stop suicide.

Now, this is not to draw some dichotomy between bullying that is not there. It’s not to say that suicide is more important. It’s a post whose goal is to say that suicide is a much bigger problem and bullying finds a place in that bigger problem. For example, when Here/Hear goes into a school or church and does our presentation, we spend time talking about bullying and how it can lead to suicidal thoughts. It becomes a form of mental illness inflicted upon someone else, with the one who is bullied usually suffering some form of depression and anxiety and unable to really talk about it out of fear. It is almost like PTSD. 

So, we should talk about both, but when people are dying by suicide in our schools and cities, it’s time to prioritize the discussion on suicide. A discussion on bullying is not going to help the teen who is just suicidal, but the discussion on suicide will help the bullied.