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Suicide Prevention: 5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain

Mental Health
Author name: Lee Health

Posted:

Suicide prevention graphic

Cheslie Kryst once held the Miss USA crown. She held a law license, too, fighting for social justice issues. But she also held something else from her loved ones—depression—until it was too late. In January, Kryst jumped to her death from the building in Manhattan where she lived. She was 30 years old.

Her death has helped increase our national conversation about mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34.

Thomas B. Hofmann, LCSW, LMFT, a mental health clinician with Lee Health Behavioral Health, says suicide is preventable, and everyone can play a role in saving lives.

“In most cases, the actual impulse to carry the act through is only temporary, lasting minutes,” Hofmann says. “This is why 24-hour suicide hotlines are so important in our society. Suicide prevention first involves being able to recognize the warning signs of suicide, both in ourselves and in others.”

Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help is essential, according to Hofmann.

“Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but rarely does any single factor cause suicide. According to the CDC, many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death.”

Hofmann says many problems can contribute to suicide, such as those related to relationships, substance use, physical health, job, money, legal, or housing stress.

“Ironically, suicidal thinking can happen when we think there’s no other way to relieve the pain of our depression,” Hofmann says. “We’ve boxed ourselves in with thinking we’ll never again feel good inside. Of course, there are many options and other ways to feel good, but we can’t imagine any at the moment. We miss so much when our thinking is boxed in. We miss so many choices.”

Imagine our reality is one big menu of life choices, Hofmann says. “Our boxed-in thinking makes us see only one choice on the menu when there are so many others.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the warning signs of suicide can include:

  • Often talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless or worthless
  • Expressing or having no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life; saying things like "It would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
  • Increasing alcohol and/or drug misuse
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and community
  • Engaging in reckless behavior or riskier activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Having dramatic mood changes
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being a burden to others

Source: American Psychiatric Association

What you can do

If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting the help they need. Warning signs may help you determine if you or a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change, Hofmann says.

Whether your thoughts about suicide are vague (“I don’t want to be around anymore”) or specific about how you would end your life—you can take a step. You can call a suicide hotline anonymously and sort out what is going on, Hofmann says.

“Licensed therapists are trained to help you see all the choices available to you on that menu of life. By talking with someone, you can move towards stepping out of that boxed-in thinking and, hopefully, avoid a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

According to The National Institute of Mental Health, here are five steps you can take to help someone in emotional pain:

  1. ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may, in fact, reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-TALK) and the Crisis Text Line (741741) in your phone, so they’re there if you need them. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person. Ask someone you are worried about if they're thinking about suicide. (While people may be hesitant to ask, research shows this is helpful.)

Hofmann offers the reminder that it’s important to take care of yourself when supporting someone through a difficult time.  “It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide,” he says. “You may experience your own difficult emotions. If so, reach out for support yourself, too.”

If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, get help quickly.

  • Call your own or your loved one’s health professional.
  • Call 911 for emergency services.
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); En EspaƱol 1-888-628-9454; TYY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889). The Lifeline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Lifeline connects callers to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have hearing loss can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.
  • Crisis Text Line. Text “HELLO” to 741741. The Crisis Text hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the U.S. The Crisis Text Line serves anyone in any type of crisis, connecting them with a crisis counselor who can provide support and information.

Discover how important you are

Lee Health Behavioral Health Services – an outpatient facility –  provides friendly and compassionate psychiatric and counseling services along with plenty of other mental health resources.

We evaluate your condition, manage your medication, and implement a plan to help you feel better. You will find a trained therapist who is right for you – a caring and attentive person who will connect with you and empower you to tackle your problems.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 239-343-9180.

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    Behavioral Health

    Mental health experts will help you with depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and teach you how to take control and feel valuable.

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