Suicide Prevention: The Power of Connection

by Ana Stefaniuk MA, LCPC, Psychotherapist, Clinical Care Consultants

We can all help prevent suicide. Every year, mental health organizations and individuals across the United States and around the world raise awareness of suicide prevention during September, National Suicide Prevention Month.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, yet it is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the U.S. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S—second leading for ages 10-24, and third leading for ages 15-34. On average, there are 129 suicides per day. Research has shown that more than half of people who die by suicide did not have a diagnosed mental health condition. These statistics should send chills down your spine. Continue reading to learn how to be an advocate for anyone who is depressed and let them know there is help and hope.

There is no single cause to suicide.  It most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition.  Here are some of the common warning signs and risk factors: hopelessness, anxiety, depression, feeling like there is no reason(s) to live, alcohol and/or drug abuse, social withdrawal, hypersomnia or hyposomnia, extreme mood swings.

More Severe Signs are: thoughts of hurting or killing themselves, researching ways to die, talking about death, dying, or suicide, feeling trapped or feeling like a burden to others, self-destructive or high-risk behavior, especially if it involves alcohol, drugs or weapons.

The reality is that suicide is preventable, and help is available. Here’s what you can do:

  1. ASK: Research shows that individuals who are suicidal and/or are having suicidal thoughts feel a sense of relief when someone checks in on them in a caring way. Even though it may be difficult or uncomfortable, ask directly, “I’m concerned about you. Are you thinking of ending your life?” Findings suggest that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce, rather than increase, suicidal ideation.
  2. BE THERE: Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to someone who listens to them without judgment. Talk openly and validate the person’s experience.
  3. DO A SAFETY CHECK: If you are concerned for their well-being, try removing anything they could use to harm themselves, such as alcohol, drugs, medications, weapons, or anything that feels unsafe. Provide the individual with resources such as the National Prevention Suicide Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 (TALK). This is a toll-free confidential lifeline which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 9-1-1 or take them to the nearest Emergency Room if they are high risk.
  4. HELP THEM STAY CONNECTED AND FOLLOW UP: Helping a high-risk individual create a support network can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness. Check in regularly, especially after they have been discharged from the hospital or other care services.

Dates to Remember:

National Suicide Prevention Week (September 8-14) is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day. This is a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness.

World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most.

#BeThe1To is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s message for National Suicide Prevention Month and beyond, which helps spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide.  Website: OR Call: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

You can also text NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):  Text “TALK” to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on this crisis text line.

There is also an app:  “A Friend Asks” which is a free smart phone app that helps provide the information, tools and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has put together A #RealConvo Guide for guidance on how to lead the conversation and respond with someone you’re concerned about:

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