by Lucas Myers
In our last blog, we discussed what suicide is and the high rates of suicide impacting many of us nationwide. Now it is time to talk about solutions. If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide, stop and think for a moment about who you could go to for help. Regardless of your age, think about who the trusted adults and friends are in your life. It isn't an easy conversation to have, so if you or someone you know is struggling, it can be really helpful to have a caring person in your corner. If a person is in need, she may be working hard to hide how she feels, but hoping desperately that someone notices how much she is hurting. If you need someone to talk to and you don't have the words to ask, start with “I need help”.
If someone comes to you for help, the first thing you should do is stay with the person in need. Don’t leave her alone. Unless there is a threat of harm to you, stay with her even if it’s just on the phone. Even if you’re going to be late for work, or school, or dinner at Mom's, stay with her, others will understand..
Next, listen; really listen. There is an old saying that we were given 2 ears and 1 mouth so we could listen twice as much as we speak. This is too important to make a joke or dismiss the person’s concerns. Be supportive. There are some tough questions you can ask that will show you care. “Are you ok? Are you thinking of hurting yourself? Will you go with me to get help? Who would you like to talk to?” These questions are about getting the help needed to survive this crisis.
The most important thing you can do is to get help. Chances are, you aren’t a trained counselor. Getting help is essential because this isn’t a simple situation you can handle on your own. Even though I’ve received training in crisis counseling and suicide assessment, the first thing I do with a person in crisis is to notify my supervisor for backup. It’s always OK to ask for help. It is ALWAYS OK to ask for help. This problem is bigger than one person, so ask “Are you getting help? Can I help you get help?” There are two numbers that you can use to get help. 1-888-724-7240 is a local San Diego crisis line available 24-7. The other number is a national number you can use if the crisis is out of the area and that is 1-800-273-TALK. These numbers are both nation-wide and toll free 24-7. You can call and speak to a professional for immediate help. Also, don’t be afraid to call 911. This is an emergency.
Your friend may ask you to keep what he’s told you a secret. Don’t do it. This is too important. You are not a friend if you’re letting the person you care about keep all that pain to himself instead of getting help. This secret is not worth dying for.
How do we know if someone needs help? The major warning signs are actually pretty obvious. If you hear someone is threatening to kill himself, looking for ways to kill himself, or talking or writing about suicide or death you need to find help immediately. We can’t afford to ignore statements like “I wish I was dead. I never should have been born. You would be better off without me.” These are cries for help. A person who is contemplating suicide may feel hopeless, angry, or vengeful, and act recklessly without thinking. If something seems wrong and you are worried, get help immediately. For someone in a suicidal crisis, help can’t wait. What happens if your friend was just being dramatic and you called 911? He might be pretty embarrassed, he might have some explaining to do. What if he wasn’t being dramatic? Boom. Embarrassment just became the best-case scenario. Better to lose a friendship than to lose a friend.
Pay attention if your friend suddenly starts using more drugs and alcohol. 50% of those that attempt suicide are under the influence, most frequently alcohol. People who feel suicidal might seem moody, anxious, agitated or sleep all the time or not at all. Often, suicidal people give away their favorite things to their favorite people, or stop participating in their favorite sports and activities. Adults may pay off all the bills or update their will. If a teen quits the team or tries to give away her iPod, surfboard, Xbox, or favorite boots to her best friends, she might be saying goodbye. This is a big one because the adults in a teen's life probably won’t know about it if friends don’t speak up. If someone suddenly doesn’t want to hang out with her friends or avoids talking to her family, she may be withdrawing in preparation for life to end. This is when your friend needs you the most. Take her out to do something she might enjoy, or if she won’t go out, then go to her. Don’t put it off. Spending time with someone who cares is especially important because people who are depressed or suicidal often feel an intense sense of loneliness and worthlessness.
In addition to warning signs, we can also look at risk factors. Breakups, divorces, major life transitions like changing schools, jobs, or moving away from friends, trauma or loss such as death of loved ones, abuse, or bullying are all potential risk factors for depression or suicide. If you or someone you know is being abused, tell a trusted friend or adult. Nobody should have to put up with physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. These days bullies are on Facebook, in school hallways, at work, and even texting on your cellphone, and it's hard to get away. Many adults and teens don't know that lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers because of the way they are treated in their homes, schools, communities, and religious institutions. If you see someone who can’t stand up for himself then stand up for him. We don’t have to tolerate hate. No one should suffer alone.
We’ve got to take care of ourselves too. Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes, but there are some really simple things we can do to cope. Two of the best things we can do are exercise and eat healthfully. In fact, since the early 1980's, research has shown that regular exercise may be as effective as antidepressant medication for combating depression. Also I highly recommend dark chocolate. Very helpful tool, boosts serotonin, a happy chemical in your brain. Add it to the grocery list. Laughter and keeping your sense of humor is another way to cope. Keeping busy with activities or working with others as a volunteer to make a difference in your community is a great way to feel good about your life. These are good supplements to professional treatment and are good coping strategies even for people who aren’t feeling depressed to decrease overall stress.
If you would like to speak with a professional at The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, you may contact us at 858-354-4077 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To see a list of other mental health conditions that we specialize in, click here.
American Association of Suicidology from:
San Diego Unified School District Youth Risk Behavior Survey from:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention from:
Walcutt, D. (2009). Chocolate and Mood Disorders. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 14, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/04/27/chocolate-and-mood- disorders/
Pedersen, T. (2013). New Guidelines for Using Exercise as an Antidepressant. Psych Central.
Retrieved on September 14, 2013 from: http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/05/11/new-guidelines-for-using- exercise-as-an-antidepressant/54728.html