Today is world suicide prevention day.
Just typing that feels heavy. Suicide... it happens you know, in every city and small town. My town alone has lost too many teenagers over the last few years to suicide. In response, my friend started a suicide prevention fundraiser to bring suicide awareness to our local high school after her beautiful son died along with two other boys, all just months apart, yet the suicides are still happening. A 13 year old boy and a school teacher died about a month apart before summer this year. It feels like an epidemic.
So what do we do about it?
I have to admit, I don’t have all the answers. It’s not something you can see coming all the time, I know my friend never saw it coming, and I myself thought her son was a happy, thriving teen, yet we were all wrong.
That’s the thing about depression, it doesn’t always look the same in everyone. Some people are open with their pain and others put on a mask to hide it.
I guess in our case we’ve been fortunate so far that our kids have shown signs of their depression. My oldest talked about wanting to die from the age of 7 and my youngest talked about voices that told him he was the worst person in the world while he drew pictures of death. But for those who are more subtle, seeing it may be impossible until after the fact.
I read recently of a mom who lost her daughter to suicide, most people thought her daughter was just being dramatic for attention, until she completed the act. Her mother now warns us all, “What I do know now is that if they ever talk of depression or suicide, they are serious.”
I think this is important for everyone to know. Regardless of past behavior, we have to take all threats of suicide seriously. Someone’s whisper of depression, may be their scream for help. We need to respond.
Here is what the National Suicide Hotline says we can do to help those who are threatening suicide:
• Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
• Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
• Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
• Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
• Don’t dare him or her to do it.
• Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
• Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
• Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
• Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
• Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
If someone you know has any warning signs we encourage you to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can find out what resources are available in your area. Your call is routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area code. The local crisis center may have resources such as counseling or in-patient treatment centers for your friend or family member. Most importantly, please encourage them to call the Lifeline.