World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th. It is a day aimed at helping those in our lives who struggle with depression and who may have suicidal thoughts. It is a day for putting your hand out and asking someone to take hold.
by Susan E. Stutz
“We’re called to hold our hands against the wounds of a broken world, to stop the bleeding.”— Don Miller.
Depression is not choosy and it does not discriminate. It does not matter if you are rich, poor, or somewhere in between. Depression cares not what you look like, how many friends you have, or how old or young you are. And, it affects almost everyone at some point in their life. For some, it is a situation-based struggle that results from a specific event such as the end of a relationship or loss of employment. For others, it is an ongoing daily struggle that feels as though it will never end. And, for many, the last 18 months have only served to exacerbate the struggle that we face in even the best of times.
World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th. It is a day aimed at spotlighting what to look for and how to help those in our lives who struggle with depression and who may have suicidal thoughts. It is not a day for pointing fingers—it is a day for putting your hand out and asking someone to take hold.
“We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.”—Jamie Tworkowski, Founder TWLOHA
Be the one to Ask
Asking the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner can open the door for effective dialogue about your loved one’s emotional pain and can allow everyone involved to see what next steps need to be taken. Other questions you can ask include “How do you hurt?” and “How can I help?” Do not ever promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.
The flip side of the “Ask” step is to “Listen.” Make sure you take their answers seriously and do not ignore them, especially if they indicate they are experiencing thoughts of suicide. Listening to their reasons for being in such emotional pain, as well as listening for any potential reasons they want to continue to stay alive, are both incredibly important. Help them focus on their reasons for living and avoid trying to impose your reasons for them to stay alive.
Be the One to Be There
This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone when you can, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person.
Be the One to Keep Them Safe
After the “Ask” step, if you have determined suicide is indeed being considered, it is important to find out a few things to establish immediate safety. Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a specific, detailed plan? What is the timing for their plan? What sort of access do they have to their planned method? Knowing the answers to each of these questions can tell us a lot about the imminence and severity of the danger the person is in.
Be the One to Help them Connect
Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports and resources in their community can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Explore some of these possible supports with them. Another way to help find ways to connect is to work with them to develop a safety plan. This can include ways for them to identify if they start to experience significant, severe thoughts of suicide along with what to do in those crisis moments. A safety plan can also include a list of individuals to contact when a crisis occurs.
Be The One to Follow Up
After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you have connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow up with them to see how they are doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call. This type of contact can increase their feelings of connectedness and let you share your ongoing support. There is evidence that even a simple form of reaching out, like sending a caring postcard, can potentially reduce their risk for suicide.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please know that you are not alone. The following is a list of resources in the U.S. and around the world:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264
- International Suicide Prevention Lifelines provides the contact information for lifelines in sixty countries.
- Befrienders Worldwide provides confidential emotional support to people in crisis.
- International Federation of Telephone Emergency Services
- Find A Helpline
Thank you to Jen R.