September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – an opportunity to raise awareness about suicide and highlight the resources available. Did you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US (pre Covid-19)? For every successful suicide, 25 were attempted. It is the 2nd leading cause of death for people age 15 to 34.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides a dedicated time to come together with collective passion and strength around a difficult topic. The truth is, we can all benefit from honest conversations about mental health conditions and suicide, because just one conversation can change a life.”
You don’t have to be a doctor or mental health professional to have a conversation with someone and to listen. A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean help is unwanted. Most people don’t want to die; they just want the pain to end.
Suicide is preventable and it starts with RECOGNIZING THE WARNING SIGNS AND TAKING THEM SERIOUSLY.
According to SAMSHA.GOV, warning signs that may mean someone is at risk include:
- Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
- Looking for ways to hurt themselves for example researching how to buy a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
What should you do if you know someone who is showing these warning signs? How do you handle it? What do you say or do?
EAC recommends the QPR process as developed by Paul Quinnett, PhD. QPR stands for: Question, Persuade and Refer. Using this process, you can start talking to someone who needs help and find a way to get them to the right people or facility.
QUESTION: You can ask them directly, “Are you suicidal?” Or less directly, “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?” If the answer is yes, we then have an obligation to act. Researchers state that this is a good thing, as most people feel relief when someone asks the question. Anxiety decreases, and they feel hopeful that someone will understand, even in a small way, the pain they are suffering. By asking the question, we are offering the person a lifeline.
PERSUADE: Once the person has admitted that they have had suicidal thoughts, they may want to talk. Do your best to listen without judgement. Research has shown the importance of listening and the positive impact it has for those struggling with thoughts of suicide. If the person feels heard, they are less likely to hurt themselves. Through persuasion, our goal is for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts to agree to receive help. Ask them to make a commitment or promise to stay alive until help is found. This is different than a suicide contract; it is a public declaration to another person that they will not harm themselves and they agree to stay safe until they see a professional for help.
REFER: You can assist with locating a mental health provider and follow up with the person to see if they made an appointment. If you don’t know of a mental health provider, contact Employee Assistance Center (EAC) at 1-800-227-0905 or contact the person’s primary care doctor. If you believe the need is urgent, dial 911 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
If someone tells you that they are thinking about suicide, DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE. Remove harmful objects from the vicinity such as sharp objects and/or lock away guns at a friend’s home. Call for help.
Finally, remember that talking and listening to the person is the most important thing you can do. It will not fix the problem, but it may provide the opportunity for the person to rethink their plan. Most people in this situation don’t want to die. They are in pain and feel despair. Suicide is preventable if you follow some of these recommendations and become sensitive to the warning signs. Remember EAC is here to help. Call us at 1-800-227-0905 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.