by Jessica Liria, Children’s Outreach Specialist
David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health
Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. Sadly, suicide is stigmatized and often a taboo topic. In order to prevent suicide, we need to shift public perception, spread hope and share resources.
Mental health concerns are common and on the rise. Ninety percent of those who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition. It is up to us all to learn how to help those around us. Knowing the warning signs and how to help someone in crisis can save lives and avoid unnecessary suffering.
Warning Signs and How to Talk About Suicide
From the subtle to the obvious, warning signs are there. Recognizing changes in mood and behavior is an important place to start. Have there been changes to sleeping and eating patterns? Is the person having difficulty managing their emotions appropriately? Do they seem isolative or withdrawn? Have they made statements or displayed actions conveying hopelessness and/or helplessness? These are all signs that there is a deeper issue going on.
As you identify these concerns, discuss them openly, but be thoughtful of your approach. We want to be non-judgmental and reassure the person that we care and want to help. Share what you have heard and noticed using “I-statements.” For example, instead of saying “You have been feeling sad lately,” say “I notice you have been feeling sad.” These types of statements mitigate defensiveness and allow for more open-ended dialogue.
It is a common myth that you will place the idea of suicide in someone’s mind if you ask them about thoughts to harm themselves. In fact, the opposite has been proven to be true. By asking the person if they have had thoughts of killing themselves, you may be lifting an incredibly heavy burden that they have been carrying around alone.
As you ask the question and prepare for the response, maintain your composure—stay calm, cool and collected. You may be nervous and your heart may be pounding, but in order for the person to confide in you, they need to trust that you can handle it. Gather as much information as you can. Do they have a plan? Have they thought about when this will happen? Have they spoken to anyone else about it? What do they think can help them? And, most importantly, we must always instill hope and assure them that they are not alone!
There may be times where you ask the person if they have experienced these thoughts and they say “no.” That doesn’t mean your concerns are no longer valid. Continue to look for signs; there are several key indicators that convey there are thoughts of suicide present. Giving away valued possessions, seeking access to lethal means, and making comments like “it won’t matter much longer” or “no one would care if I were gone” are all of high concern. We may need to revisit an earlier conversation and ask the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” more than once.
What to Do in a Crisis
When a person admits they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, it is critical that they not be left alone. We must always take them seriously and seek professional help immediately. Safety is the ultimate goal when someone is at risk of suicide. There are many resources available in the community to help, including national hotlines and local behavioral health services such as DLC’s Emergency Services department, open 24/7 to support anyone in a mental health crisis.
When someone is in imminent danger of hurting themselves—or they have already done something to harm themselves—call 911. Emergency medical professionals and/or law enforcement can arrive on-site promptly. Time is of the essence and these services should be utilized without hesitation.
- David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health EmergencyServices – 239-354-1438
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline –1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- The Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741
- The Center for Progress and Excellence Mobile Crisis Line –844-395-4432
- The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line1-800-273-8255 Press 1
Need for Community Support
With increased demand, comes an increased need for philanthropic support to ensure that children and adults in Collier County can access life-saving care. To donate to DLC, visit DavidLawrenceCenters.org.