Last September, when I first became aware of the idea that everyone can help prevent suicide, I wasn't sure what that meant exactly.
Did it mean there are specific symptoms for when someone might be considering suicide? Or that there are ways to help and support someone so that they don't harm themselves? Or perhaps that there are trends which help identify people who might be more inclined to try suicide?
As I kept reading, talking, and learning, I learned it was all of these and more.
It's September again, officially National Suicide Prevention Awareness month, and organizations around the country are preparing information, messaging, and statistics to educate people on suicide and what can be done to prevent it.
The serious push is due to the horrific impact suicide has in this country each year -- more than 47,500 deaths by suicide happened in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control -- and because of the real potential, as we all become better educated and more comfortable talking about it, of effectively reducing the number of suicides each year.
Suicide is tragic, but it’s not inevitable.
Starting a conversation about suicide with someone who is thinking about hurting themselves is one of the helpful things you can do. And being there for that conversation and whatever comes next, including crisis intervention and emergency assistance, can help save a life.
This doesn’t mean that everyone is responsible for another’s actions or that you need to be able to resolve another person’s pain or problems. But it is understanding the power of asking how they’re doing, listening to them, and determining together if professional help is needed.
As the BeThe1To.com site says, “Studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts. In fact, studies suggest the opposite: findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.”
As we kick off this month dedicated to preventing suicide, it's worth revisiting the steps we can all take to communicate with and support someone who may be suicidal.
They are, in order: Ask, Be There, Keep Them Safe, Help Them Connect, and Follow Up. While they may not be as simple as these titles suggest, you can find out more about each one at the BeThe1To.com website.
Check them out. You may just save a life one day.
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