Suicide affects people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic groups. And while there is no typical victim, suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death. Anyone can step in and prevent a tragedy, if they know how to spot someone in crisis and how to approach them.
In the United States alone, someone dies by suicide once every 16 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24. But because suicide has been considered such a “taboo” subject to think or to talk about, there are a lot of misconceptions about which individuals may be at risk, about when, how and why people might consider killing themselves, and about how best to help yourself of someone else who’s contemplating suicide.
The reality is:
- Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems and,
- Most suicidal people give definite warning signals of their suicidal intentions, but others are often unaware of the significance of these warnings or unsure what to do about them.
MHAMT provides suicide prevention services to Middle Tennesseans via The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN), a statewide public-private organization that teaches communities effective suicide prevention/intervention techniques that can be used by parents, peers, businesses, churches, educators and non-mental health professionals.
TSPN includes counselors, mental health professionals, physicians, clergy, journalists, social workers, and law enforcement personnel, as well as survivors of suicide and suicide attempts. TSPN works across the state to eliminate the stigma of suicide and educate communities about the warning signs of suicide, with the ultimate intention of reducing suicide rates in the state of Tennessee.
We seek to achieve these objectives by:
- Organizing and promoting regular regional activities
- Providing suicide prevention training to community organizations
- Providing crisis intervention training to community organizations
- Conducting postvention sessions for schools and organizations after suicides occur
What can you do if you suspect someone is contemplating suicide?
- Be aware. Learn the warning signs.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Ask if s/he is thinking about suicide.
- Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow for expressions of feelings and accept those feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture the value of life.
- Don’t dare him/her to do it.
- Don’t give advice by making decisions for someone else to tell them to behave differently.
- Don’t ask “why.” This encourages defensiveness.
- Offer empathy, not sympathy.
- Don’t act shocked. This creates distance.
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available, do not offer glib reassurance; it only proves you don’t understand.
- Take action. Remove means. Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
Learn more about these strategies along with common behavioral warning signs that may indicate an individual is struggling. You can make a difference and even save a life. Call TSPN at (615) 297-1077 or visit www.tspn.org for more information.