In honor of September being Suicide Prevention Month, I wanted to devote my first September blog post to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for valuable information and resources related to suicide prevention. The suicide prevention lifeline is a free and confidential support line that is open 24/7 and provides support to people in distress and crisis, along with support/resources for crisis prevention and information on best practices for professionals.
The number is 1-800-273-8255 and they provide services in Spanish and for the deaf and hard of hearing. There is also a chat feature on their website. Some of you may recognize the number from Logic's performance at the 2017 MTV Music Awards (the song is named after the Lifeline). The performance and song are his attempts to raise awareness of mental health, suicide prevention, and break stigma. I'd encourage you to listen to the song and check out the performance. You can check out the performance here.
The suicide prevention lifeline website also includes information about the warning signs and risk factors for suicide. While these definitely do not guarantee that someone is contemplating or will take an attempt on their life, they may be indicators to reach out for help/support. Here are the warning signs (courtesy of suicidepreventionlifeline.org):
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
If you notice a loved one exhibiting these signs, I would encourage you to talk to the person about it. Gently and non-judgmentally share your observations. A good way to approach it is to say something like "When I hear you saying things about you having no reason to live, I feel worried for you because I wonder if you are thinking about harming yourself. Is that something you are struggling with? I want you to know that I'm here for you and want to support you." As my example demonstrates, start with your observation, share your feelings and experience (rather than directly confronting them or putting words in their mouth), and offer your support to them. They may not be ready to talk about it, but you are providing a space for them to come to you when they are ready. If they do share that they are struggling, prepare to enlist professional help, depending on the immediacy and urgency of the concern. The suicide lifeline, 911 (if you believe there is an immediate danger), and a professional counselor like myself are all resources that you can turn to.
Finally, one of my favorite pages on the suicide lifeline website, is the "Stories of Hope and Recovery." These stories are from real survivors of suicide attempts and remind us that there is hope and that recovery is possible. I would highly encourage you to read these stories. As a mental health professional, they definitely remind me what I am fighting for and why I do what I do. Here are some quotes that stood out to me:
- "It's not always for us to know who we affect in any moment. You are a very important piece of the fabric of this world. The tapestry that this world is would not be as beautiful and as functional without your beautiful piece. That's kind of how I feel about that." -Josh Rivedal, suicide attempt survivor
- "Recovery is real. You can recover from this, even if you have symptoms. Those don’t mean you aren’t in a process of recovery. [Recovery] is really just a process of achieving the kind of life you want—not just an absence of symptoms, or feeling okay all the time, but that struggle where you have support to get on the path you want to get on." -Leah Harris, suicide attempt survivor
- "Hang in there because there's a lot in this world worth seeing. There are new things to learn every single day. There's a lot of things in this really shitty world full of really shitty people and instances that's still good. Sometimes it takes a lot to find. Sometimes it doesn't. Find that one thing and hold on to it. That's what got me and a lot of my friends through it—having one thing to hold on to, to look forward to every day." -Ashley Shoemaker, suicide attempt survivor
I will end on this: If you are struggling with thoughts of harming yourself or ending your life, recovery is real, and there is hope. If you are a loved one of someone who is struggling, you can make a difference and save a life.
Additional Resources (courtesy of lifethroughthis.org):
You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada), or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. If you’d like to talk to a peer, warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you don't like talking on the phone, check out Lifeline Crisis Chat or you can reach Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741741. If you're not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world.
Also, for information on suicide and substance abuse check out this link: https://www.drugrehab.com/guides/suicide-risks/