By: Lauren Porter, BSW, MHRT/C
National Philanthropy Co-Chair
This article is not to be used to conduct a formal suicide assessment or provide a determination on what level of care someone needs. Professionals should be consulted for a clinical assessment and treatment referrals. If you are afraid for someone’s immediate safety, contact a crisis hotline, 911, or local hospital.
The United States sees 132 suicides every day - over 48,000 per year - and another 1.4 million attempts each year (CDC 2015). Kappa Delta Phi NAS has made a commitment to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for our national philanthropy to join in the cause for suicide prevention. Within this partnership, we not only raise funds for research and prevention, but also live out our value of kindness by being leaders in suicide prevention for ourselves, our sisters, and our communities.
September is Suicide Prevention month. While suicide prevention is a never-ending pursuit, taking this month to spend extra time educating ourselves and connecting with others is a great way to get involved in the cause. The first step in suicide prevention is knowing risk factors and warning signs. Review this list from the AFSP and become familiar with it.
WHAT TO DO
So you’ve noticed that someone is displaying the warning signs, what do you do now? Don’t fall trap to the bystander effect. Proceed as if you are the only person who may reach out to this individual.
The first step is to talk to the person in private. Let the person know what you have observed, and that you are concerned for them. Let them know that you care and offer your support. Let the person share (at their own pace) - and really listen. Do not pass judgment or offer unsolicited advice, and keep the conversation focused on them.
Be direct and ask the person if they are thinking about suicide. While this question may be
uncomfortable, it will not increase their chance of suicide. It is an important part of intervention, as it lets you know for sure if they are thinking about ending their life.
If the individual shares with you that they are thinking about or planning suicide, it is often hard to know what to do next. This is why we dedicate time to educate ourselves on how we would respond if this happens.
The first step is to stay calm. Take a breath. Suicide is not caused by one factor. It is most often a mix of multiple stressors and underlying mental health conditions. This means that you cannot simply talk the person out of suicide by providing reasons to live or reminding them that people care about them. Typically, more comprehensive and professional intervention is needed. Often, thoughts of suicide and wanting to die are an ongoing symptom of a mental health condition. This means that this may not be something that will go away without further intervention.
Ask the individual if they have thought of receiving professional help. You can offer to locate
therapists and call them together. Offer to support them in the immediate, too. Statements for this include, “Would you like to text the crisis line (741-741) or call the suicide hotline
(1-800-273-TALK) together? They may be able to help us know what we can do next.” or “How would you feel about us walking down to the counseling center?”
Often, people are scared of involuntary hospitalizations after revealing suicidal thoughts. Some people do need this acute level of care to keep them safe. This is especially true if the individual has shared a plan and means for suicide. One option to approach this subject carefully is, “Do you think you need to go somewhere to get help right now? How can we keep you safe?” If the individual does want immediate help, starting with a crisis hotline or calling the local emergency room can be a good place to start. You can offer to transport them and stay with them until they are seen. If the individual does not have any immediate plans for suicide and shares they’ve just been having thoughts, it is still important to make sure they are connected to someone who can do a more thorough safety assessment and get them referred to proper community or professional support. A crisis hotline or a local counselor can be good resources for this.
The individual also may ask you to keep what they have revealed a secret. While confidentiality is important, it is more important to keep someone alive. One option is to call the suicide prevention hotline yourself to get guidance. Although, it is best to call them together and let the individual know that the line is confidential.
WHEN IT’S YOU
Taking care of your own mental health is just as important as helping a friend. If you notice
signs of mental health challenges in your own life, reaching out for professional help is a good next step. Ongoing care of your mental health is also important. If you are having thoughts of suicide, you can utilize similar resources as you would for a loved one, such as the National Suicide Prevention hotline (1-800-273-TALK), calling a local therapist, or going to an emergency room.
Suicide prevention requires looking after our own mental health and caring for those around us.
It requires year-round education, connection, and intervention.
You are not alone. Together, we will #KeepGoing
Suicide Prevention Lifelife (24/7): 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line (24/7): Text TALK to 741-741
TrevorLifeline (LGBTQ+ Crisis Hotline): 1-866-488-7386
SAMHSA Substance Use Treatment Referral Hotline: 1-800-662-4357