Perhaps you know of someone who struggles or has struggled with suicidal thoughts. Perhaps it is you. Perhaps you do not personally know anyone, but you wish to help.
Suicide is a daunting subject, particularly because of the many variables: Some people seem outwardly composed, while others seem visibly disturbed. Some people may be vocal, while others may hide how they feel.
There is also no consensus on treatments: Some people swear by a certain medication, while others swear by a different one. Some people swear by the combination of medication and therapy, while others say only therapy should be used.
With all these variables and little consensus, how can one person make a difference, and where can one even start? Read on to find out more.
1: Be Prepared for a Mental Emergency
Mental health emergencies are similar to any other medical emergency. Preparedness involves understanding the signs and symptoms, and knowing what actions to take or not to take.
There are several classes across the nation, one of which is hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They have partnered with the National Council for Behavioral Health to offer the class Mental Health First Aid. This eight-hour program teaches a five-step action plan for those who are having a mental health emergency.
Because classes like these have been so successful, Milwaukee Public Schools has also added a course, geared towards youth, that offers training from Sept-May each year. They have taught over 1,700 school safety aides, paraprofessionals, and teachers within the system and also offer the course to the public. There is now at least one individual at each MPS school trained in mental health first aid.
“Our goal is to be better as a school district of identifying young people who are struggling … it’s about noticing,” said Brian Rudolph, organizer of the program at MPS.
He also noted that 1 in 5 students deal with intense mental health challenges, but that those who internalize, or don’t outright lash out, are more difficult to spot. The course focuses on identifying those students as well.
2: Gain Background Knowledge
Gaining background knowledge of mental health issues, and physical issues that cause mental distress, can save a life. The Free Thought Project cited the story of Carl Leadholm, a man who was pulled over by police for swerving and was later arrested for resisting arrest in Commerce City, Colorado.
It was later revealed that he was swerving because his blood sugar had dropped dangerously low. The officers were accused of hitting him with batons, not knowing he was having a medical emergency that was causing his mental symptoms. Basic training in such types of emergencies could have prevented the entire incident from happening.
2: Gain Background Knowledge (2)
In addition, general knowledge of mental issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can also help with suicide prevention. For example, a person may mention he or she cannot control anger and sadness. While a diagnosis should not be attempted by a layperson, commenting that the symptoms mimic those of bipolar and encouraging a visit to the doctor, may give the sufferer relief after a diagnosis.
Trauma can also play a pivotal role in driving someone to contemplate suicide. The person may not necessarily have a mental or physical disease, but nevertheless may find suicide as the only solution. In listening to such a person and identifying the warning signs, this person, too, may be guided to professionals that can help.
2: Gain Background Knowledge (3)
Finally, empathy plays an important role in gaining background knowledge of physical conditions, mental conditions, and trauma identification. Adrenal fatigue, for example, makes everything from sleeping to digesting more difficult, and goes hand-in-hand with depression.
“Adrenal hormones are involved in cognitive function, mood and mental states in complex ways people going through adrenal fatigue and concomitant low cortisol/low DHEAS have been observed clinically to often also experience mild depression, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and less acute memory recall,” said Dr. James L Wilson on his website adrenalfatigue.org.
This is why even taking a shower can be exhausting for a depression sufferer. By stepping in someone else’s shoes, a person is better able to connect with those who do suffer.
3: Be Proactive
If someone looks depressed, ask how he or she is doing. Listen attentively and ask follow-up questions. If it seems there is a danger of suicide, or that the person could benefit from talking to a doctor or therapist, politely offer those ideas.
This is particularly helpful if the person is a soldier returning from war, for instance. He or she may have PTSD and not realize it or not know where to get help. Being attentive to others and asking questions is a positive and proactive practice in preventing suicide.
“No matter how I felt, I knew (she) was always there for me and I wasn’t alone,” said Cindy K., former Little of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in Green Bay, Wis.
5: Undo the Taboo
There are many myths circulating about suicide. Some people believe it is merely a bid for attention. Others believe it is a spur-of-the-moment idea or that it hasn’t been thought out at all. Yet others believe that taking a pill will make everything okay for suicidal people. Knowing about suicide and speaking up if someone is misinforming people helps society get passed prejudices or assumptions.
Click here to explore other myths about depression.
In addition, opening up dialogues, perhaps on Twitter or Facebook, normalizes the suicide conversation, and allows others to open up about their experiences, without further stigmatization. Such a conversation may even convince a reader/listener to get help.
6: Get Legislation Passed
There are many ideas floating around to help decrease suicides. Some involve reducing the number of guns or adding more background checks for guns. Others involve putting up barriers on bridges.
New ideas are welcome, and starting a page or a blog about it and see how people react is a great way to research public interest in your idea. If they are supportive of the idea, attempt to organize a group and get that legislation passed.
Click here to watch a video regarding new barriers going up in Pasadena, Ca.
7: Participate in Awareness Activities
One activity is to share a lost loved one’s memory on the AFSP digital memory quilt. While it may not bring the person back, he or she will be forever memorialized on the quilt. Seeing all the faces lost to suicide is a powerful tool in bringing awareness to suicide and suicide prevention.
Another activity to participate in is the AFSP Out of Darkness Walk. The 11th annual walk will be held this October 14, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wis. The walk serves many purposes, from fundraising, to support for lost loved ones, to hope as people participate in awareness classes.
“People from all walks of life come to participate,” said Megan Sneesby, a 5-year walk veteran and volunteer. “It seems like each year the crowd and donations grow.”
From educating ones’ self, to volunteering, to raising awareness, there are several things a person can do to help stop suicide. Every bit helps, and every person matters. Help stop suicide today.