Tales from Utah Valley: A few things to know about suicide
Talk. Ask. Watch. Connect. Hope.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to get involved with suicide prevention work as part of a group of educators and mental health professionals who worked to bring Hope Squads to elementary schools. Hope Squads is a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program. When I was first asked to be involved, I really knew nothing about suicide prevention, except that I wanted to help. Since then, through trainings and working with professionals as well as children, I have learned a few things that I want everyone to know.
It’s OK to say the “S” word (This is the most important!)
If you don’t want to finish reading this column, please at least read this section. It’s OK to say the word “suicide” to adults and to kids. Not only is it OK, but asking someone if they are considering suicide could save a life.
Many people — I used to be one of them — are hesitant to “put the idea” into the heads of youth and even adults. According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, asking your child about suicide will not increase their risk, or plant the idea. It will create an opportunity to offer support and let them know you care enough to have the conversation.
It may be uncomfortable, but we should assume we are the only ones reaching out. Asking a question could open up badly-needed communication. AFSP offers these tips:
Talk in private. Listen to their story. Tell them you care. Ask directly if they are thinking about suicide. Encourage them to seek treatment or contact a doctor or therapist. Avoid debating the value of life. If the person is considering suicide, stay with them. Help them remove lethal means. Get some help.
It’s not always the outcasts
We tend to think that the marginalized or the loners are the ones to be concerned about and rightly so. In fact, we should be concerned if others feel like outcasts or feel as if they do not have a place in the world. In schools, we worry about those who don’t seem to have friends or who are often alone. We should continue to be concerned and to reach out to these people.
However, it is also true that anyone can suffer from depression. Anyone can feel hopeless. In my experience working with youth in suicide prevention, some kids seem to have it all together — but they don’t feel as if they do. They have a lot of friends, do well in school, have supportive families — but are feeling hopeless. We need to look out for and reach out to everyone.
Connection is the key
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies show that connectedness is an important factor for suicide. The more connections we have with family, schools, coworkers, clubs, sports teams, church groups, community organizations and friends, the more we feel socially close. We have people to talk to, to share resources with, to get ideas from and we don’t feel as alone.
Those people I previously wrote about who feel marginalized or alone are often lacking these connections. This is another reason to reach out. If you are feeling disconnected yourself, please let someone know — a neighbor, family member, counselor, clergy member. There are people out there who want to help.
There is hope
Listen to each other. Reach out if you are feeling hopeless. Reach out if you think someone else may be feeling hopeless. Learn suicide warning signs. Connect with others. There is help out there and many who want to help. Hold on — there is hope.
Help is available 24 hours a day by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.