We Need to Talk… About Suicide.
September is Suicide Awareness Month
Take a moment to notice what happened when you read the word suicide. It’s a topic most people aren’t comfortable with… maybe you experienced a feeling of fear and/or a physical sensation in your body. Or perhaps you had the thought ‘I don’t want to read this’. Acknowledging discomfort and fears about suicide are important first steps as you prepare to learn more. The more you learn, the more comfortable and equipped you will be to help yourself or someone else in need of support.
It’s up to all of us to be a part of this conversation and work to reduce the stigma associated with suicide. Suicide is a public health crisis.
What to Know and What to Do
#1 Help is Available Now
For immediate help, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Trained clinicians are available 24/7/365 to provide support during a crisis for anyone in the United States. You are not alone and can use this resource for any mental health crisis (even if you or your loved one are not actively suicidal).
#2 Recognizing Signs of A Crisis
Escalating warning signs should be taken seriously and are considered a mental health emergency. These signs may include: talking about wanting to die, talking about a specific suicide plan, saying goodbye to loved ones, tying up loose ends, giving away possessions, purchasing a weapon, and/or collecting and saving pills.
#3 Supporting Someone in Crisis
- Stay calm and offer to call 988 and/or additional support people.
- Directly ask ‘do you have a plan to kill yourself?’
- Offer to listen without judgment. Avoid arguing or debating.
- Remove firearms, knives, stockpiled pills.
- Take care of yourself – As a friend or loved one supporting someone in crisis, you can also use 988 for support and guidance.
- Refer to the National Institute of Health’s 5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain handout: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/sites/default/files/documents/health/publications/5-action-steps-for-helping-someone-in-emotional-pain/5-action-steps.pdf
#4 Recognizing General Risk Factors
Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs, a recent major stressor or loss (eg: divorce, job loss, death of a loved one), aggressive behavior, withdrawal from loved ones/usual activities, verbalizing no hope for the future, family history of suicide, chronic medical illness, a mental health diagnosis.
#5 Learning More
- Thoughts of suicide are often situation-specific and not permanent. Support during escalation of active suicidal thoughts saves lives and helps bridge the person to support.
- People who have thoughts of suicide typically feel overwhelmed, hopeless, and alone. Being connected and present with others reduces isolation and suffering.
- Thoughts or comments such as ‘I wish I weren’t here’ or ‘I would be better off dead’ are often in direct relation to situational stressors and feelings of being overwhelmed. These thoughts can be the human mind’s attempt to put an end to suffering when no other resolution is apparent. Such thoughts do not always predict a suicidal plan or act. Acknowledge the intense emotions and ask more.
- It is okay to directly ask someone ‘are you thinking about killing yourself?’ Asking someone this question will not plant the idea. It can be a relief when another person asks directly about thoughts of suicide as it gives the person permission to talk about what they have been experiencing and it reduces their isolation.
#6 Accessing Additional Support
Working with a therapist can be an important part of healing and wellness when you are experiencing hopelessness, depression, stress, grief/loss, anxiety, relationship challenges. The team at Carawell Counseling is accepting new clients and are available to support people in North and South Carolina via virtual sessions as well as in-person sessions for people who live in the Charlotte, NC region. www.carawellcounseling.com
Thanks for reading this blog.
It’s up to all of us to reduce the stigma associated with suicide.