September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and this week, September 9-15, 2018, is Suicide Prevention Week. The purpose of this time is to bring individuals and organizations around the world together to join efforts to broadcast the message that suicide is preventable. The month is used to share tools and resources to support those who have been affected by suicide and raise awareness of treatment services for those with suicidal ideation. It is also a period of reflection to share stories in an effort to shed light on this stigmatized topic.
Each year, approximately 45,000 Americans die by suicide. The rate of suicide is highest among white, middle aged males. However, suicide and suicidal thoughts do not discriminate – like many mental health conditions, they can affect anyone regardless of age, race, gender, or background. Therefore, it is important that each of our friends, family members, and every individual we know has access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.
Think about your workplace. If one of your colleagues was in a crisis, would you know what to do? How would you support them? What resources are available to help you assist in an emotional or mental health crisis? It’s not unlikely that you could be put in this very situation. You are more likely to encounter a person in an emotional crisis than someone having a heart attack. It is crucial to be able to recognize a crisis, know how to appropriately help, and understand what steps to take after a crisis is diffused.
There are several ways you can begin supporting your own mental health and the health of those around you, including:
Knowing the signs: Many people who are contemplating suicide will have warning signs, which are indicators that someone may be in acute danger and may urgently need help. Withdrawal or isolation, acting anxious, agitated, or reckless, sleeping too little or too much, and talking about the feeling of being a burden to others are several of the signs. Read more about warning signs here.
Checking in: If you notice behavior that is out of the ordinary or believe something may be wrong, it is important to initiate a conversation. Begin the conversation with open ended questions and reassure them that you are ready to listen and help. It may feel uncomfortable but ask them directly if they are contemplating suicide. This will give them the chance to openly talk about their ongoing feelings and will give insight into their safety. Learn more about having the conversation here.
Reaching out: The weight of this situation does not have to be carried alone. Take time to research what resources are available in your area before you initiate conversation so that you can offer them to the person you are concerned about. You can find a comprehensive list of resources for Tennessee here. The Living Well Network has resources to help assess your feelings and provide insight into what you may be experiencing. Their website includes information on recovery including self-help treatment, local therapeutic guidance, and medical intervention options in Memphis.
- If you or someone you know is in an emergency situation, call 911
- If you are experiencing a crisis or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- If you would feel more comfortable texting, you can text NAMI to 741-741 to begin communicating with a crisis counselor for free on the Crisis Text Line