WSPDIn honor of something really important, I’m taking a break from the series about the advantages of different smarts. Why? Because this week is National Suicide Prevention Week.

How do you react when reading that? Do you think it’s irrelevant? It’s not. We all have a responsibility to make sure we are okay and to seek help from friends or professionals if we realize we’re not. No shame. It is what it is. Life and living are complicated today.

We also have a responsibility to be alert to our relatives and friends. You could be the one to save a life.

The theme for this week, from the National Council for Suicide Prevention, is to break the stigma of suicide because the stigma is a reason people end their lives. The stigma makes it hard for us to bring it up with family and friends. That’s bad. Lives end because of it. That’s sad.

Will you commit to doing something to decrease the stigma? From the National Council for Suicide Prevention:

Stigma is a major barrier for individuals and families experiencing or living with a mental illness from  getting the appropriate help and treatment they need. You may wonder, what exactly is stopping them?  Misconceptions, inaccurate information and negative stereotypes associated with mental illness and suicide oftentimes instill a debilitating fear in people experiencing a mental illness, which can lead to avoidance of the problem, worsening of an untreated mental illness, and sometimes tragically, suicide. Stigma decreases the likelihood of someone reaching out for help and prevents mental health professionals from being able to do their jobs.”

We can look out for our friends. There are usually definite warning signs:

Call 9-1-1 or seek immediate help from a mental health provider when you hear or see any of these behaviors:

  • Someone threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself

  • Someone looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means

  • Someone talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person

Seek help by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral should you witness, hear, or see anyone exhibiting any one or more of these behaviors:

  • Hopelessness

  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking

  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out

  • Increased alcohol or drug use

  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society

  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time

  • Dramatic mood changes

People who don’t think their situation can change are more susceptible to suicide than the rest of us who realize a crisis we’re going through is temporary. Do you know anyone feeling these ways?

  • Can’t stop the pain

  • Can’t think clearly

  • Can’t make decisions

  • Can’t see any way out

  • Can’t sleep, eat or work

  • Can’t get out of the depression

  • Can’t make the sadness go away

  • Can’t see the possibility of change

  • Can’t see themselves as worthwhile

  • Can’t get someone’s attention

  • Can’t seem to get control

The National Council for Suicide Prevention offers these suggestions for helping someone:

  1. Be aware. Listen to them and learn the warning signs.

  2. Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.

  3. Ask if he/she is thinking about suicide. Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.

  4. Be willing to listen. Allow them to talk openly about their feelings.

  5. Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.

  6. Don’t dare him/her to do it.

  7. Don’t give advice by making decisions for someone else to tell them to behave differently.

  8. Don’t ask ‘why’. This encourages defensiveness.

  9. Offer empathy, not sympathy.

  10. Don’t act shocked. This creates distance.

  11. Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Secrets can be deadly.

  12. Offer hope that alternatives and help are available– because they are.

  13. Take action! Remove lethal means. Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

Learn more and do more. Do something. Pray.