By Kayla Woody, House of Hope Prevention Specialist
September is a very busy month with an array of things scheduled and people wrapped up in the commotion of it all. With one season ending and another beginning, most of society tries to act as if they have it all together and don’t give the attention needed to the issues they may be dealing with or even those closest to them.
We have changed our everyday lives drastically over the past six months due to a virus that is tearing through our country. So much of our lives that used to be safe have become harmful. Places that were once a comfort are now stressful. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men live daily with intimate partner violence. Life is a constant feeling of stress, pain and suffering for those living in these situations, unhindered by masks or gloves.
Due to the violence that victims are experiencing in these relationships, suicide is a common thought often seen as an “escape.” The American Psychological Association stated, “Survivors of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide multiple times, and cases of murder-suicide are most likely to occur in the context of abuse.”
September is designated as National Suicide Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness stated, “We use this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention.”
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., per the CDC, and over 1.4 million Americans attempt each year. It is important to be able to notice the signs and provide help immediately because everyone is affected by suicide, not just the victim. WebMD stated, “50% to 75% of those considering suicide will give someone, a friend or relative, a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.”
Some signs to look for are:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Visiting or calling to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated or reckless
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
While knowing the signs and being able to spot them is important, we also need to know how to assist those around us dealing with these feelings. It is not always comfortable assisting someone who is suicidal. It may seem overwhelming, but it is extremely important to take all suicidal thoughts seriously. There are five steps to take when assisting someone with suicidal thoughts.
Step 1: ASSESS for risk of suicide or harm
The best way to determine if someone is having thoughts of suicide is to simply come out and ask them directly. Make sure to get straight to the point. Avoid saying things like, “Are you planning on doing something stupid?” or “Are you going to hurt yourself?” Try to keep the question short and direct.
Step 2: LISTEN non-judgmentally
Try active listening by fully concentrating on what is being said and not developing a response while the person is speaking. Try to listen instead of giving advice. Most of the time, the person who is having suicidal thoughts just wants someone to confide in. You may not fully understand what they’re going through, and that’s perfectly fine. What is important is that you’re accepting of what they’re saying and acknowledging it by genuinely trying to imagine what it might be like for them.
Step 3: GIVE reassurance and information
Those who are having suicidal ideation likely do not have much hope in their current situation. Providing reassurance that they are not the only person feeling those emotions and those thoughts of suicide are common.
Step 4: ENCOURAGE appropriate professional help
If you are concerned that the person is in immediate danger, please call 911. Even if you are afraid the person will no longer be your friend, please remember that their life is more important. If the situation is not urgent, try providing a safe contact for the person that is always available, like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK. Please never leave a person alone once they have informed you that they are suicidal. Encourage that person to speak with a counselor or medical professional and even try transporting them to whomever they choose.
Step 5: RECOMMEND self-help and other support strategies
Try recommending local support groups, community organizations or church members that are understanding of the person’s situation. The person has possibly dealt with feelings of suicide in the past. Try asking them what was helpful then.
Step 6: FOLLOW UP after they are safe
After your initial contact with a person experiencing suicidal thoughts, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow up with them to see how they’re doing. Let them know that you care and will be there for them if the desire returns.
If you or someone you know is experiencing stalking, intimate partner violence, and/or sexual assault and would like more information, please contact the House of Hope at 405-275-3176 or visit us online at facebook.com/cpnhouseofhope.