September brings on a lot of change, a new season, new school year and an upcoming holiday season. All of which are exciting changes, but these changes can also bring big emotions. September is Suicide Prevention Month, and I believe these changes and emotions contribute to an increase in hospitalizations and influx of individuals seeking counseling. We all know the horrifying statistics of losses by suicide and many of us have experienced it firsthand.
What can we do to make a difference?
A common myth about suicide is that asking someone if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts automatically triggers them. This encompasses the simple, first step at helping to prevent suicide: Ask the people who are important to you if they are having suicidal thoughts. Asking a loved one this question does not only have to be in times of crisis. You can ask it in everyday conversations as well! Try to be direct, clear, sincere and listen to what that person has to say. Talking about suicide opens up a direct line for communication and a direct line to get help.
Opening up to someone about your scariest thoughts and feelings is not easy, remember to be there for that person and offer these steps:
If it is an emergency do not leave them, call for help.
There is a new Mental Health Crisis number, 988. (You can also text this line!)
- Veteran support Line: 988, press 1
- Crisis text line: Text HELP to 741-741
- AR ConnectNow: 800-482-9921
Ask them if they have a plan and help them make their space safe, if needed.
Sometimes suicidal thoughts do not accompany a plan. They are just thoughts and that is okay. Identifying if someone has a plan can help keep them safer.
Offer to drive them to their counselor/therapist/doctor, whichever professional they prefer.
There is nothing wrong with needing help. Suicidal thoughts are not your fault and can be addressed in therapy. Finding a therapist is also hard. Just because one therapist did not work out for you does not mean that they all will not work out. We are all different!
Remind them that they are not alone.
You do not have to “fix” a person to be there for them, simply letting someone know that you are there for them in any way that they need is enough.
Continue to check in on them, offer support and provide comfort.
Send a text, grab a meal, stay in touch with them. Having a good support system is important for all mental health issues.
Make a safety plan
A safety plan outlines coping strategies, resources and people they can call in a time of crisis. Check out this example from Lindsay Braman.
If you are the person needing help or the person needing these steps, reach out. Having suicidal thoughts does not make you broken, weak or hopeless and reaching out when you need help is hard. REMEMBER – You are not alone; your feelings are valid, and you are loved and needed in this world. These terrifying thoughts cloud so much judgment and hope. It is okay to need help to regain that judgment and hope.