Taking the Time to Ask (and Listen)

As population increases and funding for mental health and community programs decreases, the suicide rate rises – especially for youth. This week I worked with the pre/post suicide support teams in Oregon. They were amazing, honest, authentic individuals who are dedicating their work to shifting things for youth and adults struggling with suicide in their state.

Working with them gave me deeper insight into the issue, and made me realize how critical it is for you and I to stop and ask our children, friends, family, co-workers, even people on the street, if they are really doing okay.

Taking the time to observe, ask, and be willing to listen to people – no matter who they are, or where they are in the world – makes a difference. You might be the very last touchpoint for someone making a decision to take their own life.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. This year, bringing the subject of suicide out of the shadows feels more urgent than ever. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10+ died by suicide. It is the 10th leading cause of death, and one of just three leading causes that are on the rise in the USA.

Here are things you can do to help prevent suicide:

Remove the stigma Talk openly about it. No person in a suicidal state or struggling with any mental health issue should have to feel silenced or shamed. The same is true for people who are worried about a friend or family member.

Be more aware Ask questions, and intervene quickly when someone needs your help.

Warning Signs for Suicide Can Include:

  1. Disturbed sleep patterns

  2. Anxiety, agitation

  3. Pulling away from friends and family

  4. Past attempts

  5. Extremely self-hating thoughts

  6. Feeling like they don’t belong

  7. Hopelessness

  8. Rage and irritability

  9. Feeling trapped

  10. Increased use of alcohol or drugs

  11. Feeling that they are a burden to others

  12. Loss of interest in favorite activities -“nothing matters”

  13. Giving up on themselves

  14. Risk-taking behavior

  15. Suicidal thoughts, plans, actions

  16. Sudden mood changes for the better

Be proactive:

1) Ask If you think someone might be suicidal, ask them directly “Are you thinking about suicide?” Don’t be afraid to do this, it shows you care and will actually decrease their risk because it shows someone is willing to talk about it. Make sure you ask directly and unambiguously.

2) Listen and stay with them If they say ‘yes’, they are suicidal, listen to them and allow them to express how they are feeling. Don’t leave them alone. Stay with them or get someone else reliable to stay with them.

3) Get help Get them appropriate help. Call a crisis line if life is in danger. If you can get in straight away, visit a general practitioner or psychologist. Even if the danger is not immediate they may need longer term support for the issues that led to them feeling this way.

Here are just a few of the many resources to help the creative geniuses around you who are struggling with suicidal thoughts:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also avail of their  online chat here.

A 24/7 Crisis Text Line, manned by trained crisis counselors, is also available. It’s free and confidential and can be reached by texting “GO” TO 741741

Why not ready yourself so that you can be the person who steps up to help, who asks and listens, who is the link to the help that your friends, loved ones and neighbors need.


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