Suicide Prevention: What You Can Do to Help
Did you know that in the United States in 2019 there were two and a half times as many suicides as homicides? September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to focus on the fact that suicide can be prevented. This knowledge carries with it a responsibility to do something to make a difference to halt the rising number of suicide attempts.
Know the Signs
Often someone contemplating suicide displays certain behaviors that can be flagged as warning signs. Friends, family and colleagues need to be aware of some of the most common signs and recognize these as legitimate causes for alarm. The signs include, but are not limited to, extreme depression, talking about death and ways to die, preparing for death, and exhibiting a dramatic change in behavior.
Know How to Help
Knowing the signs is the first step to suicide prevention, but knowing and not acting, does no good. If you know someone is contemplating suicide, what can you do?
According to Jenine Martin-Literski, the clinical manager of BayCare’s Community Action Team and Mobile Response Team, the best thing to do is to ask the hard question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
“Though many people believe a question like this will plant the seed in someone’s mind to attempt suicide, research has proven that simply is not true,” she says. “Actually, asking the question gives the individual a lifeline to be honest.”
“Many people are secretly wanting to know someone cares and are longing to have someone who will listen to their pain,” adds Martin-Literski.
If a friend or loved one confirms he or she is considering suicide, it may be frightening. The National Council for Suicide Prevention advises to stay calm and acknowledge the person’s pain is real. Martin-Literski recommends seeking help immediately or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
Regarding both physical and mental health, sometimes individuals are so focused on helping others, they forget about themselves. Martin-Literski says it is important to take time for yourself.
“Individuals need to find what they enjoy and take time for that,” Martin-Literski says. “It is different for everyone. Some people like to work out while others recharge by reading a good book.”
Spending time with family or friends, eating healthy foods, exercising, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and asking for help are all important factors in self-care.
Martin-Literski encourages people to set boundaries when helping others. “It’s okay to say no,” she says.
If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress, do not be afraid to reach out for help. Resources are available. A good place to start is a primary care physician. When visiting a primary care physician with BayCare Medical Group, part of the paperwork for each visit is a self-evaluation of emotional and mental health.
If the need is more emergent, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, is staffed by licensed professionals 24/7. Individuals also may call 911 or 211.
Though talking about suicide can be hard that difficult conversation may be the first step in preventing it. Talking about suicide can save lives.