Following the suicide of a much-loved celebrity, there is always talk about what happened and why. Suddenly, the harsh reality of suicide is brought into focus. The truth is that there are over 30,000 deaths by suicide reported across the country each year. This number doesn’t include the unreported deaths – a figure which researchers figure to be seven times that!
Thankfully, suicide is often preventable. If you have been wondering how you can be helpful in this fight against suicide, you might find these ideas useful.
1) Watch your language. Please don’t talk about a failed suicide attempt – say “thankfully the person survived.” This reminds us that ultimately this isn’t about success or failure – it’s about survival. Also, try not to say that a person “committed suicide.” This sounds like a crime. Instead say the person “died by suicide.” That brings home the point that suicide is final. For teens and young adults, who tend to be more impulsive, this is an especially important point.
2) Learn the warning signs and risk factors. These include a person speaking of being an enormous burden on others, having mood swings, or experiencing major sleep problems. Real or perceived loss of honor (eg. demotion, termination, breakup in a relationship) can also be a risk factor. And those who have been discharged from a hospital in the past month for emotional disturbance are at elevated risk, especially during the first week following discharge. Frequent contact with friends during that time can make a huge difference.
3) Understand that people who are depressed often feel invisible. Coworkers and family may be very aware of their mood but don’t know what to do or say, so they often don’t say anything about what they see. This can lead the person they care about to feel as if no one has noticed their struggle.
4) Don’t be afraid to pop the question. If you are concerned about someone, you probably have very good reason to be. People are often afraid to ask about suicidal thinking. We have found that when someone is asked about possible thoughts of suicide, he/she typically is relieved to be invited to discuss it OR is grateful that someone cared enough to ask. They can stop feeling invisible (see #3).
5) Take a safeTALK training. This is a FREE three-hour class for the general community, teaching people about the warning signs and strategies for talking in a meaningful way with someone who concerns you. MHA is offering one on Wed, September 10 at 9am. Registration is required. Call 845-267-2172, x296. Click here for a flyer.
6) Join a Reach for the Stars tour. This is a one-hour tour of our mission. It’s a wonderful way to learn more about we do at MHA and perhaps become involved! To ask about tour dates, click here.
National Lifeline – 800/273-TALK (8255) – this is a 24/7 line with dedicated services for Spanish-speakers and veterans.
For more information about community resources, click here or call MHA’s Client and Family Advocate at 845-267-2172, x296 to talk with someone about how MHA or another community agency can be helpful.