Suicide Prevention Information
A recent workshop in the Twin Cities, sponsored by Hazelden, offered several tips and helps for those who are in the position to help prevent suicide--all of us! The presenter, Maureen Underwood, LCSW, asserted that suicide is one of the most preventable risks facing young people today and that community awareness is the key to preventing suicide. By raising the awareness of risk factors, parents, teachers, peers, and other community members can help to provide an effective initial response to those at risk.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
But shouldn't suicide prevention be handled by a professional?
The short answer is yes, however, it is critical that those in close contact with the individual recognize risk factors and make sure that the individual is referred to someone who can help!
The following are recognized risk factors:
- Psychiatric history
- Drug/alchol abuse
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
- Experience of stressful life events (loss, loss of reputation, trouble, intense life change)
- Access to means
- exposure to another death (family, friend, or even someone they don't know personally. Death is always taumatic for a young person.)
A Note about Bullying: Although a direct link between bullying and suicide cannot be determined, it is known that those individuals who experience bullying at 2-9 times more likely to report suicidal thoughts and ideation. Victimization can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts. **Bullies are also at risk!**
Warning Signs to Look For
- Feelings: hopelessness, anger, worthlessness, emptiness, excessive worry or desperation.
- Actions: trying to get access to guns or pills, risky or dangerous behaviors, increased drug or alcohol use, getting into fights.
- Changes: moods, actions or behaviors, recent prescription of medication with depression as a side effect, adjustments/changes in an antidepressant medication, don't want to continue in activities/sports that the individual used to enjoy.
- Threats: specific verbal statements (I want to die, want to kill myself), worrisome innuendos, themes of death or destruction in school assignments.
- Situations: loss, change (moving, divorce, etc.), getting into trouble.
What can YOU do?
Ask questions and LISTEN! Talking about suicide does not increase the risk. If someone is already having suicidal thoughts, you are NOT going to make it worse by talking about it. One of the key things in helping someone with suicial thoughts is to listen carefully and help them seek professional help.
If someone says that they are consider suicide, the following may be helpful:
- Take every threat seriously.
- Say "Tell me more..." then be prepared to listen. Don't offer advice or cliches, and don't trivialize the sitiaution. Talking about what's going on with them is therapeutic.
- Understand that someone who is considering killing themself is in a crisis mode of thinking. This means that the person's coping skills are not meeting the demands of their environment. This looks different for everyone, so don't trivialize the situations that have put the individual into this crisis mode. To them, it's a very big deal.
- Ask "What's going on that is SO bad that you want to die?" (Avoid "Why do you want to die?"--it won't get you very much information.)
- Acknowledge the bad part--it's real!
- Ask "What reasons do you have to live?" (And don't trivialize the responses here. Nationally, pets are #1 reason young people will give as a reason to live.)
- Suicide is always a message. Ask "Who do you want your death to be a message to?" and "What is the message that you want them to hear?"
- Suicide Hotlines work! Offer to call and stand by during the call. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255.
From a conversation, you should be able to determine how immediate the risk is. If you feel that the risk is immediate, stay with the person and call 911. Take the situation very seriously!
If you are a friend or peer, always alert a parent, teacher, or other adult. You can only help your friend! You will not get them in trouble.