September is Suicide Prevention month. This started in 2003 by the World Health Organization to create awareness that suicide is preventable.
Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone. It is important to know the warning signs and what to do to help. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Every year more than 44,000 people die by suicide and for each death there are 23 more attempts. We all have access to information and can help by talking about prevention.
Not all people that attempt suicide are depressed. It is important to know there are other warning signs:
- Talking about death or suicide
- Looking for ways to self-harm, such as searching online or getting a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Sudden change in mood
- Event that causes severe physical and/or emotional pain
What can you do
Get informed about the local resources. Find the local hospitals and clinics in your area that offer counseling services. Research local organizations that provide information or support for you before having the conversation. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for guidance. Ask yourself if you know other people who care for the person and could be called for help.
Find out when is the best time to talk with the person. You will need a time when there are no interruptions with plenty of privacy to talk openly about the subject. You might also want to get prepared by thinking through what you want to say or practicing some of your questions.
Have a conversation about your concerns. Share with the person things you have noticed that make you concerned. Ask open ended questions. Open ended questions are those that lead to a long answer, for example, “Have you thought about death?” Or, “What kind of thoughts have you had?” Don’t be afraid to ask the question, “Have you thought about ending your life?” This question does not put the idea about suicide but guides you to get appropriate help. Listen carefully to what their reasons are for living and dying.
Create a safety plan to help reduce the possibility of the person harming him or herself. Involve other people that care for that person and seek professional help. Plan with the person how to make his or her environment safe. Talk about where the possible weapon (object or medicine) should be to ensure safety. Discuss what activities can help him or her stay safe. Talk about who can provide company until the person gets professional help. Make sure the person knows the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for Spanish 1-888-628-9454. If you think the person is in immediate danger call 911 right away.
If you are interested in talking with a mental health professional about suicide or any other mental health concern, call us today at 414-672-1353. Our team of bilingual behavioral health professionals are available to help you today.
Authored By: Gabriela Dieguez, MSW, LCSW, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers