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Suicide, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. With the rate of deaths by suicide increasing, everyone has their own personal views on what has led to these devastating statistics. While our environment, current circumstances and world view may be ever changing, one certainty remains true – everyone is affected by suicide, not just the victim. As individuals, families, communities and businesses, we must continue to reach out to those who are struggling and show our support, help get them the follow-up mental health care they need, and guide them toward a path of recovery.

There is no single solution to suicide, but we know that when people talk about it, those who may be struggling with suicidal ideation are less likely to act. Research has shown that when those contemplating suicide have someone to talk to, they will often agree to get the treatment they need. While many people experience fleeting thoughts of suicide, their threats often go ignored. Debunking the myth that these thoughts of suicide are a sign of weakness, attention seeking, or being selfish is vital to helping the individual through these times of crisis. For those experiencing hopelessness and helplessness, suicide can seem like the only way out.
If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, it is imperative to talk with them and ask direct questions to find out what they’re thinking. Your questions will not push them to act on their thoughts, but rather give them an opportunity to convey how they feel and reduce the risk of them completing suicide. Talking with and finding help for someone who may be suicidal can be difficult. Some helpful steps include being direct and talking openly about suicide. Be willing to listen and allow the person to express their feelings and be sure you are acting non-judgmentally. This includes not debating whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether their feelings are good or bad. Listening and offering hope that alternatives are available can provide reassurance and willingness to see that recovery is possible.

If you feel this person is a danger to themselves, it is critical that they are not left alone. Getting help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention or calling 911 is necessary to help keep them safe. United Counseling Service can provide immediate emergency services to individuals in crisis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout Bennington County. The clinician on call responds to all requests and can also help arrange more intensive levels of care as needed. You can access these services by calling 802-442-5491. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available by dialing 988, 24 hours a day, and can provide free and confidential support for people in distress and help connect them to prevention and crisis resources.

Understanding the issues surrounding suicide and mental health are an important initial step to help others in crisis, and to begin to change the stigmas and misconceptions around suicide. If you are struggling with a mental health issue, seek out the support of friends, family or a professional who can help lighten the burden. It’s important to remember there is no shame in seeking help. if you suspect someone is having thoughts of suicide, speak up. You just might save a life.

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