September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic. Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Everyone is affected by suicide. Suicide impacts family and friends long after the loss of a loved one.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. In the state of Vermont, one person dies by suicide every 3 days. These numbers are difficult to comprehend, and even more staggering to discover that for every person that dies by suicide, 25 more attempt. 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. Research has shown that when those contemplating suicide have someone to talk to, they often will agree to get the treatment they need. The prevalence of suicide deaths in the U.S. is astonishing, but together we can create positive change
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 that may be suicidal can be difficult. Some helpful steps include being direct and talking openly about suicide. Being willing to listen and allow the person to express their feelings and making sure that you act non-judgmentally. Do not debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether their feelings are good or bad. Willingness to listen and offering hope that alternatives are available can provide reassurance 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 crisis clinician responds to all calls and can also help arrange higher levels of care as needed, such as a hospital or short-term crisis bed. You can access these services by calling 802-442-5491. UCS also offers free Mental Health First Aid training for anyone in the community who would like to become better educated about mental illness, and how to respond in a mental health emergency. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255 (TALK), and the Crisis Text Line (text 74174) is available 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 wellness is an important initial step to helping others in crisis, and to begin to change the stigma and misconceptions around suicide. Your mental health and the mental health of a loved one is important. If you are struggling with a mental health issue, find support in allowing a friend, family member or a professional to help. If you suspect someone is having thoughts of suicide, speak up. You just might save a life.