September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is an observation that draws attention to what a pervasive problem suicide is. It also highlights the fact that there are behavioral health resources available from places like Community Reach Center’s crisis center in Denver for people who are considering ending their life and for family members and friends of people who are at risk of attempting suicide or who have completed suicide.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide each year
- For every person that dies by suicide, there are another 25 who attempt suicide
- Suicide costs the U.S. $69 billion annually
However, there are things that loved ones can do to help prevent suicide. First and foremost, it is important to recognize the indicators that some is at risk.
Signs a Person May be Considering Suicide
While not everyone who attempts or completes suicide exhibits observable behaviors before they take action, many people do. These behaviors may include:
- Talking frequently or passionately about death, dying, self-harm or suicide
- Attempting to obtain the means of suicide such as firearms or other weapons, drugs, chemicals, rope, etc.
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Withdrawal from family and friends, and avoiding activities previously enjoyed
- Expressing feelings of self-hatred or guilt
- Reckless actions, such as abusing drugs or alcohol, driving carelessly, etc.
- Getting affairs in order such as selling or giving away possessions
- Saying goodbye to loved ones as if they won’t be seen again
- Demonstrating sudden calmness as they come to terms with the action they are about to take
It is important to treat any of these behaviors as issues that should be addressed and not a “phase” that the person is going through.
The Right Response is to Take Action
If you have any suspicion that someone is considering suicide, the right response is to take action. If it turns out you have misunderstood their behavior, you can apologize and move on. However, if you are correct, your intervention may save their life.
It is a common belief that talking with someone who is considering suicide may cause them to move forward with their attempt. However, providing an opportunity to talk about what has them on the brink of ending their life can help relieve some of the pressure they are feeling and give them a chance to consider alternative actions including getting help from a crisis center in Denver like Community Reach Center.
When talking with someone you think is at risk of attempting suicide, keep these tips in mind:
- Be honest. Don’t try to hide the fact that you are worried about them attempting suicide. It is important that you be truthful about your fears for them.
- Take them seriously. If a person says that they “just can’t go on,” you should take them at their word and not be dismissive about their situation.
- Be understanding even if you can’t relate. It may be that suicide is something that would never cross your mind. However, what matters is that it appears to be on theirs.
- Be a good listener. Generally what people in crisis need is not advice but an opportunity to express themselves.
- Provide hope. The mental health conditions that lead people to consider suicide are treatable and a better life is possible.
- Promise support. In many cases, simply knowing that they have someone who will stand by them as they seek treatment can make all the difference.
If at any point before, during or after a conversation you feel a suicide attempt is imminent, seek help immediately. Transport the person to a hospital or mental health center if they will allow it and you are able to do so. If not, call 911, prevent access to any means of suicide, and stay with the person until help arrives.
How to Talk with Suicide Loss Survivors
Like a person who is at risk of attempting suicide, suicide loss survivors also need the support of loved ones. Here some recommendations on how to talk with them:
- Avoid saying “I know what you’re going through.” Even if you are a suicide loss survivor yourself, you can’t fully understand their situation.
- Don’t imply or assign blame to them or to anyone.
- Know that just being there for them can be helpful, even if a few words are spoken.
- Don’t ask questions about how the person died.
- Offer whatever assistance you are able to provide.
- Don’t make statements that minimize the pain of the situation like, “He’s in a better place.”
- Don’t place value judgments on the act, such as saying it is selfish, a sign of weakness, etc.
- Be patient with them.
- Check in often.
Assistance is Available
Talking with a behavioral health counselor can help a person keep from getting to the point where he or she is considering suicide. Learn about our crisis center in Denver at communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.