October is not only a month for breast cancer awareness, but it is also Suicide Awareness Month. While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, Suicide Prevention Awareness month provides dedicated time to come together to discuss this difficult topic. The truth of the matter is that anyone can benefit from learning more about mental health concerns, warning signs and how to support those that are experiencing mental health related struggles.
There are so many difficulties that arise from mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts, like many conditions, can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34, and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. With the struggle of the last two years of pandemic creating increased isolation, unexpected changes in day-to-day life and significant loss for many, there is no surprise this mental health and suicide, specifically, are a growing concern.
We wanted to take the opportunity to highlight ways you can support a person in crisis as a way to reinforce the mission of Suicide Prevention Awareness month. When a suicide-related crisis occurs, friends and family are often caught off-guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do. The behaviors of a person experiencing a crisis can be unpredictable, changing dramatically without warning. Knowing how to support someone in that moment can help make the already stressful situation feel less overwhelming and scary:
Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as, “Have you had thoughts of ending your life?”.
Express support and concern. During a difficult time like this, people tend to feel isolated and misunderstood. Letting them know that you are there for support, and reinforcing it, can help them to feel heard. Additionally, it could allow them to feel more comfortable expressing how they feel with you.
Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills. It is always important to assess the physical environment to ensure any item that could be of harm is removed. Individuals who have expressed suicidal thoughts may take action if they have the means readily available to them.
Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice. Creating additional unnecessary tension and stress will just escalate the situation.
If you are nervous, try not to fidget or pace. Sometimes, people can sense when others are feeling uncomfortable or nervous. As much as possible, control your physical response to the nervousness so it’s not as noticeable to the person in crisis.
Be patient. Individuals who are struggling with mental health, especially those who are at the point of having suicidal thoughts, may have a difficult time expressing their needs. More than that, once they are able to express themselves and get the help they need, it takes time for them to make meaningful progress. It’s important to be patient with them through the ups and the downs they experience!
The key in any crisis situation, especially involving suicide, is to respond quickly and get help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number to contact the hotline is: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you (or someone you know) is experiencing symptoms you believe could be a true mental health concern, you can complete a free screening. There are many out there, and they can help you develop a deeper understanding of what you’re feeling. Screenings are not diagnoses but they are one of the simplest ways to determine if you may be battling a mental health condition. We continue to offer appointments for new patients within our Counseling Practice. If you or someone you know could benefit from an apppointment, contact us today: https://bit.ly/2Hg5JRV