September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: There is hope. There is help.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: There is hope. There is help.

By DLC’s Children’s Outreach Specialist Jessica Liria, M.S.

With mental health concerns being both common and on the rise, it’s important to be aware of warning signs that those around us need help.

Recognizing changes in mood and behavior is an important place to start. Have there been changes to sleeping and eating patterns? Is the person having difficulty managing their emotions appropriately? Do they seem isolative or withdrawn? Have they made statements or displayed actions conveying hopelessness and/or helplessness? These are all signs that there is a deeper issue going on.

As you identify these concerns, discuss them openly, but be thoughtful of your approach. We want to be non-judgmental and reassure the person that we care and want to help. Share what you have heard and noticed using “I-statements.” For example, instead of saying “You have been feeling sad lately,” say “I notice you have been feeling sad.” These types of statements mitigate defensiveness and allow for more open-ended dialogue.

It is a common myth that you will place the idea of suicide in someone’s mind if you ask them about thoughts to harm themselves. In fact, the opposite has been proven to be true. By asking the person if they have had thoughts of killing themselves, you may be lifting an incredibly heavy burden that they have been carrying around alone. As you ask the question and prepare for the response, maintain your composure—stay calm, cool and collected. You may be nervous and your heart may be pounding, but in order for the person to confide in you, they need to trust that you can handle it. Gather as much information as you can. Do they have a plan? Have they thought about when this will happen? Have they spoken to anyone else about it? What do they think can help them? And, most importantly, we must always instill hope and assure them that they are not alone!

There may be times where you ask the person if they have experienced these thoughts and they say “no.” That doesn’t mean your concerns are no longer valid. Continue to look for signs; there are several key indicators that convey there are thoughts of suicide present. Giving away valued possessions, seeking access to lethal means, and making comments like “it won’t matter much longer” or “no one would care if I were gone” are all of high concern. We may need to revisit an earlier conversation and ask the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” more than once.

When a person admits they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, it is critical that they not be left alone. We must always take them seriously and seek professional help immediately. Safety is the ultimate goal when someone is at risk of suicide. There are many resources available in the community to help, including national hotlines and local behavioral health services. Community agencies, like David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health (DLC), have an Emergency Services department, open 24/7 to support anyone in a mental health crisis. When someone is in imminent danger of hurting themselves—or they have already done something to harm themselves—call 911. Emergency medical professionals and/or law enforcement officers can arrive on-site promptly. Time is of the essence and these services should be utilized without hesitation.

Words cannot describe how life-changing compassion, empathy and kindness are to those struggling with mental health concerns. We cannot look the other way or hope the situation will get better on its own. As a community, we must come together for our families, friends, and neighbors. Every life is worth living—we cannot let suicide be a permanent solution to temporary problems. There is hope. There is help.

Crisis Resources:

  • David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health Emergency Services – 239-354-1438
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • The Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741
  • The Center for Progress and Excellence Mobile Crisis Line – 844-395-4432
  • The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 Press 1

Sep 16, 2021 | Blog, Mental Health

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