International Survivors of Suicide Day is in November on the Saturday before Thanksgiving (November 21, 2020) and promotes coming together and supporting the survivors of this tragic event. When someone commits suicide, they affect everyone who knew and loved them. For those people, grief and trauma can be especially difficult. Because the death is self-inflicted, coming to terms with the reasons and the stigma associated with it often makes it hard to grapple with, which is why they need all the support they can get.
History of International Survivors of Suicide Day
Suicide has been viewed differently over time. It’s been both condemned and condoned depending on the location and the religion of the society. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are against it, while the Brahmans of India tolerate it. In ancient Greece, people who were convicted of crimes were allowed to take their own lives making suicide acceptable on a conditional basis. In Rome, the principles changed near the end of their empire.
Western society used canon law and then criminal law in an attempt to decrease the rate of suicide in the middle ages. The effect it had on society was minimal, however, as suicide rates remained the same. After the French Revolution of 1789, the criminal penalties for attempting suicide were abolished for European countries, but it took England until 1961 to join them.
While the suicide rates for adults in the United States didn’t change much from 1950 to 1980, suicide rates among younger people increased significantly. Those most affected were young white males aged 15 to 19 which increased by 305% and from white males aged 20 to 24 it was 196%. Mental health officials had to broaden their understanding and the roles that drug and alcohol, mental illness, suicide clusters, and the availability of firearms affected society.
In 1999, US Senator Harry Reid introduced a resolution that led to the creation of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. Reid lost his father to suicide in 1972 and the cause was close to his heart. It was then designated into Congress and placed before Thanksgiving as the holiday season can be a hard time for survivors. Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention supports Survivors Day events all over the world and the peace that it brings.