The suicide rate in the United States has jumped to a 30-year high according to new research by The National Center for Health Statistics:
“Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.
The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age. The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014…” (U.S. Suicide Rate Surges to a 30-Year High, NY Times, April 2016)
Ensuring that people who are suicidal get help when they need it and exactly how they need it to prevent suicide is crucial.
Today, Facebook announced a new initiative that would offer help to friends and family members of potential suicides. They are essentially offering a tool (an added feature on the platform) that will allow concerned friends and family to privately flag Facebook if they see someone post something that may hint at an eminent suicide attempt (Facebook’s support tool for suicide prevention rolls out globally, Next New Web). There’s a potential for backlash related to privacy concerns using this tool, but it’s a welcome first-step to potentially helping many people.
A Dangerous Game
On the other side of the Facebook universe, on Instagram, I read a post on popular gossip blog, The Shade Room (@theshaderoom), about a young woman who asked rapper, The Game (@losangelesconfidential), for advice and motivation for someone considering suicide.
Apparently, The Game recently began giving free advice to followers on his Instagram private messages. He posts snapshots of the private advice sessions to share with his followers (and mentions the person’s identity in the public post).
The Shade Room posted a screenshot of a private chat between the suicidal young woman and The Game. The young woman (whose identity is not revealed) asks the rapper:
When having thoughts of suicide, what do you suggest? Any motivational words?
Below is a screenshot of the young woman’s question and The Game’s answer:
The Game’s advice is the very opposite of what someone who is suicidal needs to hear. People who contemplate suicide are not seeing or thinking clearly and are extremely emotionally fragile. Telling a suicidal person: “If you kill yourself, you’re dumb” and “Suck it up” could actually push the person further into their destructive darkness. It’s also very insensitive. And showering this woman with compliments about her beauty would likely fall on deaf ears if she is truly feeling undeserving of life.
We have no way of knowing if this was the entire exchange or if The Game treated this with the seriousness and urgency it required by getting her help immediately. But The Game ending the exchange with “KEEP YA HEAD UP,” instead of offering her telephone numbers to suicide prevention lines where she can talk to someone who is experienced and who would know how to help someone suicidal and in fragile state of mind, is disturbing to say the least. I can only hope that we are only getting part of the story and that he really did rise to the occasion and point her in the direction of more substantive, immediate help.
Although there’s no sign of the post on his Instagram page (did someone tell him to delete it? I hope so), The rapper does mention that the suicidal woman reached out and said that she felt a bit better the next day. Hopefully, she will get the help she needs (and there is something to be said for the fact that she reached out for help to The Game — better a rapper than to not reach out at all).
The Shade Room congratulated The Game for his advice to the woman (and he congratulated himself as well – uh… ok). But there were quite a few comments from readers expressing the same sentiment that I am in this post. Telling a suicidal person to “suck it up” and that they’re “dumb” is incredibly irresponsible and dangerous. Furthermore, I think that both The Game and The Shade Room should’ve offered links and telephone numbers to suicide prevention organizations and a link to more info on suicide (there were enough puzzling, uninformed remarks in the Comments to warrant offering substantive info to readers so that they can learn the facts about suicide).
On the show, I covered another rapper who tried their hand at giving advice — ASK A CELEBRITY: Rick Ross on Cheating, Smoking Weed, Career, Sexting and Relationships. And I’ve covered suicide insofar as its devastating, life-long affects on the survivors left behind, Her Boyfriend Committed Suicide, His Family Blames Her. Rappers as advice columnists may be fun and entertaining for the users, and they may very well offer sound advice in many instances (after all, they have life experiences worth sharing too), but when it comes to giving advice to someone who is suicidal, leave it to the experts and connect the person to help immediately (either a suicide prevention hotline or by calling the police).
Suicide Prevention and Support
If you or someone you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, contact:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) / 24 hours, 7 days a week
If you are a suicide loss survivor and are looking for information and support, contact:
Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors (847-868-3313)