Event Review | Panel Discussion on Opening up About the Taboo
Throughout September and October, in recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 and the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Day on October 10, CandleX focused on suicide prevention, a complex and serious issue. It is mind-boggling to think that on average six people completed suicide today in Beijing, and six people yesterday, six the day before that, and there will be another six die by suicide tomorrow. By the end of 2019, nearly 140,000 people will have died by suicide here in China.
As a community, we do not just talk about suicide. On October 15th 2019, we collaborated with BARE to bring this special event to Beijing’s community. BARE’s founder, Helena, founded BARE to connect people in safe spaces that allow them to remove their protective armor, and encourage them to build meaningful relationships without the need to feel self-conscious about the things they feel behind-the-scenes but rarely have a chance to express. BARE aims to connect people and remind us that we are not alone and provides the support they need to cope with the challenges of the modern world. Together, we organized a special discussion about the lived experiences of adults and practitioners affected by suicide. We know that people who have direct experience with suicide have an important role to play in suicide prevention. These individuals, including suicide attempt survivors, can generate hope for people at risk.
The goal of the event was to break the taboo of talking about suicide. We know this can’t be done in one evening, but we are hoping to get the conversation started.
There were four panelists for the discussion: Xiaojie, Dr. Bojean Hu, Andrew and Helena. Xiaojie is the founder and director of CandleX. She has been the facilitator for the CandleX peer support group since its inception in 2015. She joined the panel to share her experiences of working with people in crisis from the psychosocial support aspect.
Dr. Bojean Hu also involved in the panel. She is a psychologist who works for United Family Healthcare. She is an American born Chinese and moved to China in 2016. Dr. Hu integrates Western traditions and Eastern mind-body practices. She joined the panel to discuss the clinical perspective of suicide. Eryn joined the panel to share her personal experience with suicide. She has been a member of the Beijing community for nearly 20 years. She has a flourishing career in education.
Andrew was on the panel as a community member and is relatively new to Beijing. He hopes that by sharing his story he can help others dealing with suicidal thoughts. He has a successful career in the IT field.
Helena, our collaborator and founder of BARE was the panel discussion moderator. The panel discussion was scheduled to last for about an hour, while it unexpectedly lasted well over two hours with lots of questions and even answer period after.
It is a fact that many people do not talk about the warning signs and of the ways to help their loved ones if they are having suicidal thoughts. It's common to think that by directly asking about suicide, we might plant the idea into our loved ones' heads. This just isn’t true. Having the courage to ask, “Have you thought about killing yourself?” can actually save lives and just by listening to people express their feelings and pain, not trying to fix it, can be healing in and of itself.
We hope that the audience will take what they learned and spread the words with their friends and family. This will truly be the only way to break the taboo. Remember, you do not need to be afraid by asking about suicide. You don’t have to solve the problem, just be there to listen and provide support.
Thanks to Crossboundaries for allowing us to use the beautiful space.
In case you know anyone that needs crisis support in English, you can contact Lifeline Shanghai.