Today (September 10) is World Suicide Prevention Day.
I wrote this on Sept 10, 2013, but it is as relevant today as it was back then, perhaps even more so…
I believe every suicide is preventable.
Most people who commit suicide want to live. They want help. They are looking for reasons to live but oftentimes we miss those signs. We need to listen and be more aware of what people are saying.
Just because someone is having a bad day or going through tough times doesn’t mean they are thinking about suicide but it’s still our obligation as friends, family, coworkers, and leaders to listen intently for that call for help if it exists.
It’s very difficult to ask, even in role play during the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) that I’ve had, to ask if they are considering suicide, but it’s a question that MUST be asked. No euphemisms, either. No “are you thinking about hurting yourself?” You can gently work yourself up to it, but eventually the question MUST be asked: Are you thinking about killing yourself? (or something along those lines)
If they say YES, it’s important to remember that it is not about you, so no matter how opposed you may be to suicide, it’s NOT ABOUT YOU! They, at least for the moment, see it as a viable option, so it’s important for you to step out of your comfort zone and understand their dilemma. Hear their story and understand their reasons for suicide because if you shut them out, they’ll shut you out and the conversation will go nowhere.
Understand their reasons but listen for their reasons to live because they may not be able to hear it themselves. Their mind is often so clouded that they are unable to see the good things in their life. When they mention their kids, their spouse, their dog, their whatever, that’s your opportunity to pounce on that. Let them do most of the talking but support that turning point.
Oftentimes, that’s all they need. Again, their mind was so clouded that they couldn’t see all the positives in their life.
It’s a mild comparison, but when I worked at Kroger, I’d have 499 awesome customers but that one jerk would mess up my whole day. I should’ve been focused on the 499; instead, I was focused on the one.
It’s also important to find out what their plan was and to disable that plan. If it was to use a gun, we need to take that gun and ammunition. If it was to drive a motorcycle into a tree, we need to take those keys.
We need to put that person in contact with someone he or she trusts to talk to about such a sensitive matter, if it’s not you, and then get the professional help they so sorely need.
It’s important that the individual knows the safety plan that you’ve agreed upon and can tell you the plan before you continue, whether you accompany him/her to the next step or (if you have a warm and fuzzy) send them on their way.
This is just the down and dirty, the Reader’s Digest version as we say in the Army.
I typed it up with the quickness so if there are mistakes, I apologize.
The important thing is that in most cases suicide is preventable and in most cases that starts with us, not the person at risk.
You don’t have to be an expert. I’m certainly not. You just have to care.
PS: We need to keep working to eliminate the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He continues to serve in the Alabama National Guard and is a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visithttp://www.jodyfuller.com.