Did you know that each year in the US, approximately 40,000 people die by suicide? Overall it is the 10th leading cause of death, but it can be prevented! One of the best ways to prevent suicide is to know the warning signs.
It is important to know that suicidal thoughts or behaviors are a sign of extreme distress. One should never brush off someone’s suicidal ideation as a means to get attention. But how to you respond if a loved one talks about or shows the signs of suicide? Here are five ways to respond:
- Ask. It might seem like the most obvious response; but since it’s a difficult conversation to have, many may want to avoid having it. Others might think that by talking about suicide, you may be putting an idea in someone’s head. Studies have shown that this is simply not true. So, ask straight up, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” By asking you are showing someone your concern and that you see that he/she needs help.
- Listen. Once you open the conversation, listen to what your loved one is thinking and feeling. Talking about suicide can actually reduce suicidal thoughts and actions.
- Provide a safe environment: Ask if your loved one has a plan and a means to commit suicide. You can remove an individuals access to highly lethal items such as firearms or Rx pills.
- Provide resources. Suicide is a serious concern and it’s important to know that you don’t have to go it alone. You should seek professional help. There are so many resources available to help your loved one. For example:
- If you are in Western New York and the crisis is imminent you should call Crisis Services at 716-834-3131.
- The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- And for non emergencies, you can connect the person to local resources and counseling such at Horizon Health Services 716-83-1800.
- You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
- Stay on top of it. Follow up and stay in touch, particularly after the initial crisis. It’s also especially important to be there for someone after he/she is discharged from care can make a difference. According to NIMH, studies have shown “the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person”.
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