I recently attended a symposium addressing suicide prevention. I hoped to hear of programs (widespread support groups integrated into the fabric of educational institutions or community centers) that were working upstream to educate and prepare young people to handle the stressors our current lifestyle creates so their lives would generally be full of progress and even fulfillment.
Instead I learned of valiant, albeit needed efforts to provide new ways of helping those who are talking of and planning their suicide, to cease their plans and stay alive. Among the work talked about at this forum were things like; new intake forms for social workers which would divert those with suicidal thoughts away from emergency rooms to other care providers. New forms for emergency room doctors to help the suicidal patient find the appropriate services instead of spending time in a hospital. New call centers with new hotline numbers and new safety plan approaches and new ways to use those safety plans.
Now, don’t get me wrong. With our current situation, these innovations are critical to saving lives and I believe they are helpful and making a difference.
But it left me asking the question, is this a sign that we are still working furiously downstream to save as many lives as we can instead of building a dam at the top to stop people from getting swept away in the current of depression and anxiety? Are we only putting safety nets half way down the cliff instead of a fence at the top. Is our only goal to keep people from killing themselves?
I would like to change the phrase “suicide prevention” to something like “joyful living promotion”. I would like to think with the right timely education and support we could raise children that grow up happier, enough that ending their lives doesn’t even cross their minds. This does not mean I am blind to the challenges some face that are so overwhelming they will need heightened levels of care. This doesn’t mean attempting to create a world without opposition, or even one where every child has a supportive friend or family member who can help them through even the normal pains of growing up. Being in the business of teaching joyful living doesn’t mean we will eliminate drug and alcohol problems or other forms of self destructive behaviors. But it does mean imparting thought patterns and teaching resilience skills early enough and in a way those who fall will find it easier to rise again, if falling is part of their journey. It does mean I think its possible to build more strong people who can help those who fall and help them heal because they have been taught the truth about mental distress and are not afraid to help, in fact they have the understanding and empathy to be very helpful.
How can this type of education…promoting joyful living…happen? When and where should it happen? Who should teach it? How should it be taught or facilitated? The answers to these questions are what drive the founders of Music4health to develop programs, find funding and partners to teach resilience skills when, where and how they can make a difference.
Future blogs will address our thoughts to answer these questions. For now, do your own thinking about what you think could be done, even if you have to preface it with, “in a perfect world”. If Lexus can be in the ‘relentless pursuit of perfection’ for their cars, can’t we as parents, teachers, coaches, and caregivers also be in the relentless pursuit of perfection in raising the future generation? Let’s at least be as progressive as Honda and believe in the ‘Power of Dreams’. Think about it and let’s talk:)
Author: Kelli Schofield