Recently, our world lost two very talented, well-known celebrities who left a lasting impact on many individuals. Fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain both committed suicide and within minutes, the media was publishing press release after press release and suicide hotline numbers were trending all over social media. Although suicide hotline numbers are not necessarily bad, they are magical numbers that people throw at you whenever you mention you might be depressed or suicidal. Individuals who are actively suicidal are planning ways to end their suffering; they are not looking up suicide hotline numbers or searching social media for posts to help them cope with their thoughts and feelings. Many individuals who are contemplating suicide say they wonder about the following in regards to suicide hotlines:
- Will they answer?
- Will someone hear me?
- Will this show up on my phone bill?
- What if someone else needs the help more than I do and I’m just taking up space?
The media has good intentions when it comes to educating the public on suicide awareness however pasting a suicide hotline number all over the Internet is not going to solve the problem. What is going to solve the problem is eliminating the stigma associated with suicide, educating health professionals on how to talk to clients and patients about suicide and teaching the public about suicide risk factors and how to talk to their loved ones in a crisis.
So how can you help?
Suicide prevention education, learning how to be a strong support system and having a number to a therapist or a psychiatrist is a start to helping others who are experiencing suicidal ideations. Many family and friends of suicide survivors often do not know what to say so they either ignore the issue or give out the suicide hotline number. It is easy to feel helpless when someone you care about is in pain. If someone who is contemplating suicide confides in you, you should listen to him or her with open ears, quit everything you are doing at the moment and be present with them, and do not judge them or tell them they are being irrational. But before you offer hope and help, you must first recognize the five signs of emotional suffering:
- Personality changes
- Uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody.
- Withdrawal or isolation from people
- Neglect self-care and engage in risky behavior
- Overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstance
Suicide prevention strategies you can use:
- Express to your loved one that they are not alone. Tell them you are there for them and will continue to be there and make yourself available for them.
- Communicate with them in person, not over text
- Take action by removing guns, knives or stockpiled pills.
- Help the person schedule and keep appointments with a mental health professional, even if the individual no longer feels suicidal
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
- “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
- “Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
- “I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”