by Keia Shipp-Smith | Graphics by Stephanie Tesreau
Suicide is a national epidemic that does not discriminate based on age, race, gender or socioeconomic status and can affect any person at any time. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time when mental health professionals, community advocates, survivors and allies work together to promote and raise awareness regarding suicide prevention.
The stigma and shame surrounding suicide, and the false myth that discussing suicidal ideation will lead to more deaths, leaves those in need feeling bereft and without the tools to adequately handle the ups and downs of life. However, with proper care and advocacy, experts believe that suicide is preventable. Awareness and prevention begins with knowing the warning signs and taking the appropriate course of action. *Be mindful when individuals discuss harming themselves, have feelings of hopelessness, act reckless or engage in risky behavior, withdraw emotionally and physically from family and friends, experience dramatic mood changes, see no reason for living and/or feelings of anxiousness. These are some of the warning signs, but not all. Awareness of what is out of the norm for the individual necessitates an appropriate call to action.
Each of us has the capacity to help save a life in our community by knowing the **5 Action Steps:
Ask: Open a dialogue and do not shy away from asking direct, honest questions to access the mental health of a hurting individual. Actively listening, and not projecting your desired responses, provides a safe space to speak freely.
Keep Them Safe: If the individual is contemplating suicide, seek to ascertain their timeline and means. If the means for self-harm are readily available, removing the individual from their environment and seeking proper treatment is essential.
Be There: Connection is paramount in combating feelings of isolation and in establishing a support system. Whether you are a friend or family, choosing to support an individual in the midst of crisis means being present. Know what you are capable of giving. Follow-through is key to the health and wellness of a hurting individual.
Help Individuals Connect: Local medical professionals and prevention specialists provide a safety net for dealing with the crisis and the methods to combat suicidal ideation. Hoyleton Youth and Family Services has both a prevention and counseling care team to work with individuals to help them get the support they need when they need it.
Follow Up: Checking in on the individual lets them know they are not alone in this. This feeling of connection provides a pathway toward healing not alone, but together with their tribe and community.
Each of us can be a force for change during National Suicide Prevention Month. Be the one to save a life by knowing what to look for and the steps to obtain help. Suicide is preventable when each of us takes the time to stay engaged with our loved ones and those within our community. Connecting and investing in the mental well-being of those around us makes a lasting, positive impact in the lives of everyone. Choosing to show up and be there is how suicide prevention starts with you. For more information, please call HYFS Prevention team at 618.688.4739, and the HYFS Counseling Care team at 618.688.7082.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255
MY3-Support Network: Mobile phone application to help individuals stay connected to their network in times of crisis. (Available for Apple and Android)
*Illinois Department of Public Health-Suicide, http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/prevention-wellness/suicide-prevention
**National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, https://www.bethe1to.com/bethe1to-steps-evidence/