Suicide Prevention: What Can You Do? Kristine Proctor, MSW, LCSW
Suicide Prevention: What Can You Do?
Kristine Proctor, MSW, LCSW
Suicide is a difficult topic. Many of us would like to believe that we will not ever have the need to deal with this reality but unfortunately, at some point in our lives we may have to either for a friend, family member, coworker or for ourselves.
There are many misconceptions about those who have suicidal ideation and how friends or family can be supportive. It is important to understand as much as you can about how you can help a family member or friend, or when you might need to reach out for help for yourself.
Knowing what to look for is a good place to start. According to the CDC, there are 12 warning signs to look for:
Feeling like a burden
Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Increased substance use
Looking for a way to access lethal means
Increased anger or rage
Extreme mood swings
Sleeping too little or too much
Talking or posting about wanting to die
Making plans for suicide
So then, how can you respond if you have concerns? Here are a few ideas to help:
Ask directly if they are thinking about suicide. You might say, “Have you ever felt/Do you feel so bad that you’ve thought about suicide?” It’s okay to talk about it. Research shows that by asking you are not “putting the thought in their head” and that inquiring about suicidal thoughts does not prompt suicidal thoughts. Remember, if you don’t ask, you may not know. Additionally, just because someone is thinking about suicide does not mean they have a plan, the actual intent or the means to follow through. Asking directly helps you understand what their current thoughts and feelings are and helps you know how to respond.
Listen to their answers. Many times the way someone talks about their thoughts of suicide are indirect. Or a hint might be said in a joking manner. Don’t assume they are joking. Pay attention to statements like, “I just want to curl up in a ball and die.” Or “I just want to sleep and never wake up.” Or “I’ve got no reason to live.” These statements alone do not necessarily indicate that someone is suicidal but could be a clue taken in the larger context of their behavior and moods.
Make sure they are safe. Ask them about whether or not they have the means to follow through on a plan that they’ve discussed. Removal of weapons, medications or drugs and even access to their car can help ensure safety.
Don’t keep secrets. While it may be difficult to reach out for help, safety is essential. Let them know you’ll help with a plan to get them the mental health support they need. You will be able to deal with the fallout of a friend or family member’s frustration at some point later, after knowing they have the help they need.
Encourage them to get help from a professional. Unless you are a mental health professional, it is best to encourage or even facilitate getting help. In case of emergency, immediately call 911. The National Suicide Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 can be called 24/7 for one to consult a medical professional for advice. It is a confidential resource. For those hard of hearing, you can chat with a Lifeline counselor via suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
If you would like to find out more about how you can recognize a crisis and the warning signs that someone might be contemplating suicide, an excellent resource is The QPR Institute (Question, Persuade, Refer) at QPRInstitute.com. Many health departments and school districts offer free training opportunities.
Kristine has many years of experience working with individuals feeling sad, depressed and anxious. Feel free to reach out to her if you believe counseling is needed for you or someone you care about. Kristine offers two appointment options: a) face-to-face in her downtown DeLand, Florida office or b) via an online, HIPAA compliant video chat. Online therapy is not the best option for everyone. Some issues are best addressed face-to-face.
If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline at 1.800.273.8255. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Kristine Proctor, MSW, LCSW, LLC does not offer crisis counseling or emergency services.
Reach out to discover the best fit for you and your journey. Wishing you peace and courage.
Find yourself, and be that!
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
EMDR Certified Therapist
112 W. New York Avenue, Suite 205
DeLand, FL 32720