September is National Suicide Prevention Month, Sept. 10 is set aside specifically as Suicide Prevention Day.
In a nation that lacks accessible and affordable mental health care, this crisis demands the attention of every person.
A study by The National Council for Behavioral Health and Cohen Veteran’s Network found that the societal stigmas that have historically dogged those who experience mental health disorders have decreased. Unfortunately, the number of people seeking care have increased but face barriers related to income and accessibility. “Despite this strong demand and growing societal awareness of the importance of mental health in the U.S., the study revealed that the overwhelming majority of Americans (74%) do not believe such services are accessible for everyone, and about half (47%) believe options are limited”, from the NCFBH website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that California experienced 4,491 deaths by suicide in 2018. Although California’s suicide death rate is one of the lowest in the nation, it remains that more can be done to prevent loss of life.
What are the signs?
Knowing what to look for is the first step to helping others, as well as recognizing the status of your own mental health. If you or someone you know is displaying any of these warning signs, there is help.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
Ask direct questions! “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” “Do you want to go to sleep and never wake up?”
While some may find this confrontational or intimidating, asking a person who you fear may be considering suicide is one of the best ways to prevent them from taking action. Asking direct questions like these show the person that you are open to communicating about what they may be going through in a non-judgmental way. Listen to their concerns and fears without minimizing or dismissing them.
Never promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.
Instead, ask them if there is a specific need you can meet to support them. Do they need someone to talk to when they’re feeling sad? Do they want to go for a walk? Maybe they don’t know who to call, and they need help finding resources. These are examples of small efforts that can have a significant impact on the lives of others.
Follow up, keep in touch
As well connected as society is, people are lonely and feel more disconnected from one another than ever before. Approaching a person who may be suicidal can change the course of a person or family’s life. However, that person will need more than one conversation to recover. Checking in often reminds them that they matter, that someone cares. It provides imperative emotional connection that encourages healing and builds hope.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.”
Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio 1-888-628-9454
Options For Deaf + Hard of Hearing, for TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711, then 1-800-273-8255.
Veterans Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, Text 838255