While on the surface someone may seem to have it all, as Robin Williams’ recent suicide demonstrates, mental illness doesn’t take personal circumstances such as wealth or fame into account. “Mental illness is real and it does not discriminate,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Even though we may not see it on the surface, some of our coworkers and loved ones may be experiencing feelings of intense emotional pain and desperation. These feelings can worsen or escalate without the proper help.”
This year’s National Suicide Prevention Week is September 8-14. This week is dedicated to raising awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death.
How to Help a Suicidal Person:
If you or someone you know is in imminent danger of suicide (i.e., cannot stay safe in the immediate future), call 911 or seek emergency help at a hospital or mental health clinic.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline, at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). If you don’t know whether a person is in imminent danger, the hotline’s counselors can help you assess the risk. By calling 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor who can assist you by providing intervention and local resources.
When calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, follow the prompts as directed:
- Veterans: press 1
- Spanish speakers: press 2
- Everyone else: stay on the line
Other Ways to Help a Suicidal Person*:
- Express your concern about factors you have observed. Be empathic and non-judgmental.
- Listen. You may be scared, especially if the person is someone who is close to you. However, it is important to listen to how they are feeling without overreacting.
- Accept the person’s feelings as they are. Do not try to cheer him/her up by making positive, unrealistic statements.
- Show that you care and want to help.
- Ask directly about their suicidal thoughts − “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
- Never agree to keep serious suicidal thoughts in confidence. Inform family members and friends.
- Take suicidal thoughts and feelings seriously. Three out of four people who die by suicide give some warning to a friend or family member.
- Remove lethal means of suicide from the person’s home.
- Let him/her know that suicidal feelings are temporary, that depression can be treated and that problems can be solved.
- Assist with finding alternatives to suicide. Develop a safety plan with him/her.
If you cannot develop a safety plan and a suicide attempt is imminent, seek outside emergency intervention at a hospital, mental health clinic or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-8255 (TALK).
In the October issue of Lifelines, we will explore mental health issues in more detail, including depression and anxiety. We will also look further into suicide, its causes, prevention and how to try and eliminate the stigma associated with getting help for a mental illness.
[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division’s Associate Director.]
*Information from the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Assistance website