By Robin Govanlu, LAC, LPC, Behavioral Health Clinical Director, Oak Orchard Health
A parent. A child. A relative. A friend. A friend of a friend. Sadly, we all know of a special someone.
The week of September 6th starts National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. In the past decade, suicide has ranked as the 10th leading cause of death. In 2018, over 48,000 people died by suicide and there was an estimated 1.5 million suicide attempts. Devastatingly, there is an average of 132 suicides per day. You can help; you can make a difference. But how…?
ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Because of stigma and personal pain, people with suicidal thoughts and plans often do not who to talk to about their thoughts and feelings. Asking and talking openly about suicide can make a difference.
KEEP THEM SAFE: “Let’s keep you safe by removing things you might use to kill yourself.” Ask if the person has a plan for killing him or herself. Locking lethal items up, giving them to another person for safekeeping, removing them from easy access, leaving a dangerous area can lessen risk of suicide. If possible, safely reducing access to lethal items can make a difference.
BE THERE: “I’d like to stay with you and talk.” Listen carefully to what the person feels and thinks. Acknowledge their pain, fears, and stress. Being with the person and listening to their story can make a difference.
HELP THEM CONNECT: “Let’s call or text for help.” There are phone numbers and text numbers to get support and help; contact one while you are with the person. Encourage the person to save contacts in a cell phone or even take pictures or screenshots of crisis hotlines. Helping the person know how to reach 24/7 help and support can make a difference.
STAY CONNECTED: “Let’s talk again, tomorrow or soon.” Following up with the person can provide even more support and acknowledgement of his or her feelings. If a person is being released from care, a hospital, or emergency department, connect with them. Ask how they feel; ask if the experience was helpful. Following up and staying connected with the person can make a difference.
Even though you may be unsure, uncomfortable, worried, and even scared, you can make a difference.