What you say (and don’t say) could save a person’s life

Suicide prevention experts: What you say (and don’t say) could save a person’s life Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY – Sept. 2018

On average, there are more than 128 suicides per day in the United States, attempted by people with and without known mental health conditions. USA TODAY.

It’s crazy that even the most biased and highest estimates (by the conflation of any and all drugs) of overdose deaths are only about half the number of suicides, but no big money groups or politicians are advocating for “suicide prevention”.

So suicide deaths are almost twice as common as “opioid overdose” deaths, yet very little is being done to address this much more serious issue.

I think it has frightening implications for our country when so many citizens are finding their lives so burdened with ever-increasing pain–physical, financial, emotional, spiritual–pain that becomes literally unbearable over time.

We all have a limit of how much suffering we can tolerate without hope for relief. Thanks to the current anti-opioid craziness, suicide becomes the only escape possible.

For every person who dies by suicide, 280 people think seriously about it but don’t.

There’s not one answer to what makes someone move from thinking about suicide to planning or attempting it, but experts say feeling connected to other people can help.

Tip 1. If someone seems different, don’t ignore it

The most important thing you can do is look for a change in someone’s behavior that suggests they are struggling.

“Trust your gut,” Foreman says. “If you’re worried, believe your worry.”

Foreman notes changes in behavior are some of the most telling indicators, but it’s also important to look for specific warning signs:

Tip 2. Don’t be afraid to ask. Then act

The most important thing you can do if you think someone may be suicidal is to ask.

It may be hard, but it works. Don’t buy into the disproven idea that there’s nothing you can do to help, or that bringing up suicide might do more harm than good..

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline have identified these five steps to help reduce deaths:

  • Ask: In a private setting, ask the person you’re worried about directly if they’re thinking about suicide. Studies have shown that it does not “plant the idea” in someone who is not suicidal but rather reduces risk. It lets the person know you’re open to talking, that there’s no shame in what the person may be feeling
  • Keep them safe: Determine the extent of the person’s suicidal thoughts.“What could I do to help you stay around until this passes?” Harkavy-Freidman said. “What could I do to help you stay around until this passes?” 
  • Be there: If someone tells you they’re thinking about suicide, continue to support them. Ask them to coffee. Give them a call. Some people will eventually stop having suicidal thoughts and feelings, others will continue to struggle throughout their lives.

Well, this pretty much describes me. I’ve had suicidal thoughts on and off since puberty when I made my first attempt.

To my surprise, I find life much more valuable as the years accumulate – perhaps even “sacred”. That and knowing what horrible scars it would leave on everyone that I care about are powerful deterrents for me.

  • Help them connect: Encourage them to seek additional support. That could mean calling the Suicide Lifeline (800-273-8255), suggesting they see a mental health professional or helping them connect with a support group.
  • Follow up: Keep checking in. Call them, text them. Ask if there’s anything more you can do to help.

Tip 3. Pay special attention when someone is going through a difficult time

You can check in on people based on what you know about them, said John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

While experts caution that suicide is never the result of a single cause (bullying, a breakup, job loss), when those events are combined with other health, social and environmental factors they can heighten risk.

Tip 4. If someone makes an attempt and survives, continue to be there

One of the risk factors for suicide is a prior attempt. Studies show that suicide survivors often experience discrimination and shame and may struggle to talk about their feelings because they are worried people will judge or avoid them.

If someone you know is a suicide survivor, the Suicide Lifeline says:

  • Check in with them often.
  • Tell them it’s OK for them to talk about their suicidal feelings.
  • Listen without judgment.
  • Tell them you want them in your life.
  • If they start to show warning signs, ask directly if they’re thinking about suicide.
  • Call the Lifeline for advice on how to help: 800-273-TALK (8255))

Tip 5. You don’t need to have all the answers

Resources to get help

Suicide Lifeline: If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online.

Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.

For people who identify as LGBTQ, if you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, you can also contact The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline 24/7/365 at 1-866-488-7386.

The Military/Veterans Crisis Lineonline chat, and text-messaging service are free to all service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve and veterans, even if you are not registered with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or enrolled in VA health care. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

10 thoughts on “What you say (and don’t say) could save a person’s life

  1. peter jasz

    I did not know:

    ” ….On average, there are more than 128 suicides per day in the United States, attempted by people with and without known mental health conditions. USA TODAY.”

    ” …there are more than 128 suicides per day (TWICE THAT OF O-D DEATHS) in the United States”
    (OMG: Horrific. Is there no prominent, private national/state magazine/newspapers that discuss such things ?)

    ” …but no big money groups or politicians are advocating for “suicide prevention”.
    (Simply because of an eroding social culture that politicians/governments HAVE CREATED.
    Work/employment, health, standards of living have deteriorated to pre WW years -a disgrace in itself.)

    ” …So suicide deaths are almost twice as common as “opioid overdose” deaths, yet very little is being done to address this much more serious issue”.
    (That would point the finger at impotent, alienating, corrupt governments responsible for dismal policy management: Health Care, Education, Employment, Standards of Living and indifferent Environmental policy.)

    Thank you for sharing.

    peter jasz

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      These are sad times… but I think I think we’re starting to see medical professionals push back too, especially now that it’s becoming clear that suicides due to pain are rising.

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      1. peter jasz

        ” …but I think I think we’re starting to see medical professionals push back too, especially now”

        You think ?

        We’re STARTING to see (after thousands of deaths/suicides due to an inability to tolerate intolerable, anguishing pain) medical “professionals” (who are paid hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars annually to TAKE CARE of people; to heal, and minimize or eliminate human suffering) are “pushing back” especially NOW ??

        The attack on pain patients was allowed to fester and grow with not ONE iota of a defense plan/ strategy to defend them. Was that, ten (10) years ago now ?

        Fucking disgraceful.

        pj

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        1. Zyp Czyk Post author

          I’m not so idealistic that I expect the medical system and the billions of dollars that flow through it to cater to my interests. How profit is made in the system will determine the results, not the pittance of my payments to a doctor or for a prescription. The “system” has gotten so big that I’m not sure any outside forces can control it anymore, the gears of profiteering just keep grinding away at us (and actually most doctors too).

          Money flowing up to the C-suite executives is a true anti-gravity force :-)

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          1. peter jasz

            Cyp: Keep focused. (I was speaking to the gross price differences for the same prescription drugs state-to-state.)

            ” …I’m not so idealistic that I expect the medical system and the billions of dollars that flow through it to cater to my interests.” (What does that even mean?)

            Both universal health care and prescription drugs can be made both excellent and affordable.
            If there was simply a desire. There’s definitely a need. To have the notable distinction of a modern, healthy/prosperous nation without a universal health care system is unheard in any
            democratic nation anywhere in the world. Nobody benefits (citizen nor Country) from such an indifferent attitude to all of its citizens health and welfare.

            pj

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            Reply
  2. louisva

    Last week, while in a great deal of pain, I confessed to Kristen that I have been thinking of (ideation) suicide but have made no plans. It was a moment of weakness and now she is frightened. Why didn’t I keep it to myself?

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    Reply
    1. peter jasz

      louisva: Hello my friend. I know the feeling. BUT, such thoughts should never be kept to oneself; it’s a desperate cry for some help. If we can’t share our deepest/most honest feelings with the ones closest to us, who can we ? Even if those cries/sentiments come day-after-day, or hour-after-hour; we did our part (in calling, desperately out), from there it’s the responsibility of those able-bodied closest to us to seek -and get- help (on our behalf). If none is forthcoming, we’ve done our part, and the future lies in the hands of fate -or simply one’s decision as to where and how relief can be obtained.

      Such desperate (agonizing) cries for help, to go unheeded is horrific. That this occurs so frequently (turned away from seeking life/death help/relief) for so long (10-years) in a powerful, so-called “advanced” society is without precedence.

      Look to those (anyone) who can help.

      peter

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. louisva

        Thanks to Peter and Zyp! It really was ideation – I have not made any plans. I just hate scaring the one I love! It scared me too! Those words just came out from mouth with no thought. I’m a VERY stubborn person and have been near death a few times but I will not let it happen. I’m glad y’all (southern for you all) are here. It’s comforting.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  3. louisva

    I do have the disease of depression and it is treated medically very well. This bit of depression I would call ‘situational.’ The pain is depressing – fix pain – not depressed anymore. I really am ok you guys and thank you so much for caring. It means a lot to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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