Fall is coming upon us! Every month is designated as an awareness month for one (or many) causes. September is National Suicide Prevention month and includes Suicide Prevention Week of September 10 – 16, 2017. This is an important topic for social workers and other helpers.
There is so much shame and stigma around suicidal thoughts and ideation. Generally, individuals who commit suicide are in deep pain and in that moment, all that is felt is the pain. This year marks the 15th anniversary of world suicide prevention day which is on September 10th, 2017. This year’s theme is “Take a minute, change a life.” Such an awesome theme and it shows that all of us can make a difference in someone’s life!
How do you do this? First – if someone says they are going to hurt or kill themselves. Believe them. Does it really matter if they have a plan or if they really have no intention of harming themselves? People say this when they are in pain they can’t figure out how to stop. Follow through with this person. Maybe you can just talk to them and see where they are emotionally. It is OK to speak to them, help them call a crisis line, help them get to a hospital for evaluation or even call the police. Jumping in and intervening will not make the situation worse. You may not want to get involved but maybe your short involvement will save a life.
Many people you encounter may not seem suicidal but may be struggling. If someone is having a bad day, stop and ask them if they would like to talk. If you see someone you don’t know who is obviously fraught – just ask them if everything is OK. Sometimes just the contact of someone caring for a brief moment can make the difference. My view of suicide has always been that sometimes it is so bad that you can’t hope but if a person can just get to another moment it may not seem so dire. Just you taking a minute and speaking someone might be the catalyst for the person to get to the next moment.
Also, be aware of stigma around mental health. The National Association of Mental Illness states that ninety percent of people who commit suicide have a mental health condition. You can help by normalizing therapy and getting help when struggling. Be aware of the language you use and the ideas you put out there and make sure you are expressing a positive viewpoint of taking care of a person’s mental health as well as their physical.
Do not ever under estimate what your caring, kindness, words and time can do for another person. I knew a person once, who was depressed. He had support in his life via a church but several family members had died suddenly in a short period of time and he felt isolated and alone. He had a gun that he brought with him everywhere. He told me that on his worst day he was sitting alone in his van in a neighborhood he didn’t usually frequent. He said he was ready to die because he couldn’t see any future that was palpable for him. He sat with the gun in his hand. He told me that while he was sitting there someone came and knocked on his window to see if he needed help. He said yes. He told me that he knew that God or someone had sent that person to him. By that person just asking if he needed help, it saved his life and now, he can’t imagine wanting to die. This person did nothing more than ask him a question and it saved his life. Take a minute, Change a life.
If you are a social worker or helper and are wondering how to work with a client who is suicidal – check out this post from last year on working with clients who are suicidal.