Written by Marianne Rogenski
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and suicide prevention is an important part of any mental health discussion.
KYC staff recently attended a webinar training called Talk Saves Lives that was put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Here are some key points from that training:
It is important to remember that talking about suicide is critical to suicide prevention. We must talk about the issue so that stigma is reduced, so people who are having suicidal thoughts know that they are not alone, and so people who are struggling know that they can talk about it.
The words we use to talk about suicide do matter. It is important to say “died by suicide”, “ended his/her life”, or “killed him/herself.” Do not say “committed suicide.”
There are warning signs that we can all look for in people that we are close to:
Talk—the person may talk about ending their life, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, or having unbearable pain
Behavior—the person may increase their use of substances, have sleep issues, act recklessly, withdraw from normal activities, isolate themselves, or give away possessions
Mood—the person may be depressed, apathetic, full of rage, irritable, impulsive, humiliated, or anxious
If you are worried about someone and think that they might be having suicidal thoughts, you may wonder what to do. Make sure you trust your gut when you are concerned. Also, don’t ever assume that others have noticed and will take care of it—reach out to the person yourself.
Have a conversation—even if it seems awkward or scary! Be caring and compassionate.
Reach out to the person and make sure you speak to them privately.
Then, be DIRECT. It is important to ask, “are you thinking about killing yourself?” or “are you thinking about ending your own life?” Asking this does NOT put these thoughts into someone’s head. If you are wrong and the person is just sad or having a tough time, they will appreciate that you have reached out and you care. If you are right and they are struggling with suicidal thoughts, your question opens the door for them to talk and hopefully get help.
When you are having this conversation, make sure that you are really listening. If someone is having suicidal thoughts they are in pain, they may feel like they are a burden to others, they have most likely lost hope for things to get better. So avoid minimizing the issue, trying to give advice, or trying to convince them that life is worth living. Just listen to their story, be with the person, and offer to help them find resources and services.
If you feel that the person is in immediate danger—STAY with them.
Try to secure or remove any lethal means.
Escort the person to mental health services—a behavioral health center or even an emergency room. You can even call 911 if you feel that is necessary.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Text TALK to 741741.
It is important to know that anyone can call or text those numbers; it does not have to be the person in crisis. If you are concerned about someone, you can reach out and ask how to help.
Sometimes it may help the person you are concerned about if you make the call or send the text with them there.