The International Society for Suicide Prevention has generated the theme of Working Together to Prevent Suicide for World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10) and Suicide Prevention Month in September. They state that “we all have a role to play and together we can collectively address the challenges presented by suicidal behavior in society today”. Common misconceptions about suicide can make it difficult though for parents, child-serving partners, and medical professionals to accurately identify people who might be at risk and we may hesitate to become involved when we are unsure of what to do for others in need of support. Let’s first debunk a few myths that you may have heard…
Myth: People who attempt suicide either really want to die or they are doing it just for attention.
Fact: Research with people who have made suicide attempts shows that most people do not want to die – they want their pain to end and they feel that they do not have another solution.
Myth: Once someone is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.
Fact: Heightened suicide risk is often short-term and situation-specific. While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long and happy life.
Myth: Talking about suicide with someone is a bad idea and can lead them to a suicidal action
Fact: Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to contact. Rather than encouraging suicidal behavior, talking openly can give an individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide. It also can provide hope that you care and want them to remain safe.
Myth: Professionals are the only ones that can prevent a suicide and there is nothing that you can do to help someone.
Fact: Suicide prevention is everybody’s business, and EVERYONE can help prevent the tragedy of suicide
What you can do: Learn what signs of suicide may look like and open yourself up to having a conversation with someone if you have a concern about them. Help guide others to a local support or resource and offer hope and encouragement.
Warning signs that indicate a need to take immediate action may include:
- Talking about wanting to die or killing oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online, obtaining a gun or storing medications
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Giving away possessions
- Drastic changes in moods and behaviors, increased anger or irritability
- Engaging in risky behaviors
The good news is that there are also multiple protective factors that support individuals and may be readily available.
- Effective behavioral health care
- Connectedness to others, to family, to the community, and to social activities
- Life skills (including problem solving skills and coping skills, increasing the ability to adapt to change)
- Self-esteem and a sense of purpose or meaning in life
- The presence of a caring adult
- Hope for the future
Creating an environment that reduces the risk of even one person dying by suicide takes family, friends, co-workers, community members, educators, religious leaders, healthcare professionals, political officials, neighbors and governments. While policies to support suicide prevention must occur at individual, systems and community levels, research suggests that suicide prevention efforts will be much more effective if they address a spectrum of related issues. We are fortunate to have multiple resources and people working together in this area to assist individuals in need of support:
The Georgia Crisis and Access Line is available 24 / 7 / 365 for help for individuals with developmental disabilities, mental health diagnoses, drugs or alcohol. Trained behavioral health professionals can provide resource support as well as on site intervention if someone is threatening to hurt themselves, increases alcohol or drug use, engages in reckless behaviors or feels hopeless. They can be reached at 800-715-4225.
A Crisis Text Line is also available 24/7/365 and can be reached by texting GA to 741741
School based mental health services (APEX) are available in several Newton County Schools (Yuki Reese 678-416-5037).
Early detection, education, therapy and support for individuals aged 10 – 24 is available through a Garrett Lee Smith Zero Suicide grant (Larry Evans 678-221-1096)
Free QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) trainings can be scheduled with your group at your convenience. (Larry Evans 678.221.1096 or Jennifer Wilds 770-856-8034).
Project AWARE through Newton County Schools works with youth and adult peer leaders to identify Sources of Strength and provide free Youth Mental Health First Aid trainings to community members and child serving partners (Adrienne Boisson 770-784-2364).
Rockdale Newton National Alliance for Mental Illness is creating communities where all affected by mental illnesses find hope, help and acceptance through support, education and advocacy. Monthly supports groups and trainings are available in Newton and Rockdale Counties. (Rockdalenewtonnami@gmail.com and www.facebook.com/NAMIRockdaleNewton)
A peer with lived experience may be available for individuals with a mental health or substance abuse diagnosis, for youth and for parents of a youth with behavioral health needs. Contact your local behavioral health provider for more information.
Education, resources and advocacy for the prevention of suicide are available through the Newton / Rockdale Suicide Prevention Coalition (Jennifer Wilds 770.856.8034).
Respectfully submitted by Adrienne Boisson, of Project AWARE Newton County and National Alliance for Mental Illness, and Jennifer Wilds, of View Point Health and Newton / Rockdale Suicide Prevention Coalition.