Suicide Prevention and Awareness: Talking to Loved Ones

Welcome to our blog! Last month was National Suicide Prevention Month and in an effort to continue the conversation I am here to talk about how we can support our loved ones who are contemplating suicide. When people talk about suicide they take into account two perspectives, that of the individual who is contemplating, planning, has tried, or has completed suicide and that of the family and friends who were close to them. Often contemplating questions such as “What did I miss, what could I have done, why didn’t they come to me, or why didn’t I know?” Unfortunately these questions are asked when thinking retrospectively rather than being posed as proactive steps by asking, “What am I missing, what can I do, How can I provide a space for them to come talk to me, or have I checked in on them?” This month is about learning how to be proactive and preventative in the fight on suicide.

As a family member or friend to someone who is, or has contemplated suicide, there is no step-by-step guide on how to help them. In the same breath, the individual battling doesn’t have any guide on how to help themselves either. That being said, there is a major emphasis on creating and fostering a healthy, supportive environment in which people feel comfortable to communicate openly about their struggles. Without open and healthy communication, the individual contemplating suicide will not be encouraged, or open to, disclosing their struggles. Now let’s be realistic, suicide is not a common topic of conversation from even an informational or educational standpoint, so to have this topic come to surface in an organic conversation can be quite off-putting. Some people may not know how they feel about suicide until it comes up in conversation or it happens to someone they know. That is an issue, we don’t think about how to talk about suicide or how to respond to it until it’s actually presented to us. From there, we react in one of three ways, emotionally, logically, or a mix of both. In an ideal world, we would be able to attend to our emotional response to suicide in a logical and appropriate manner in order to be proactive. This may not be the case though, someone can become overwhelmed with emotions or instead shut off emotional responses and attend to the logistical factors. Let me be clear, there is no wrong way to feel about suicide. There are however healthy and unhealthy ways to respond and attend to suicide.

Questions to ask yourself about suicide:

  • What are my views on suicide?
  • What do I know about suicide?
  • What emotions come up for me when I think about suicide?
  • What is my opinion of those who contemplate, attempt, and/or complete suicide?
  • What do I want someone who is struggling to know?
  • How do I intend to respond to someone if they disclose their thoughts about suicide?
  • Am I willing and/or able to support someone who is thinking about suicide?

This is list is intended to evoke further insight into your own values, beliefs, and feelings related to suicide. When you have the answers to these questions you can then start to examine those feelings, values, and beliefs in order to develop an idea of how you would or want to respond to suicide. For example, maybe you realize that you don’t have a lot of education on suicide and before you can develop an opinion you need to have more information. Or maybe you conclude that you have a strong negative emotional reaction to suicide and contemplate whether or not you would be able to support someone who is struggling in a healthy way. There are endless conclusions that someone can come to after reflecting on these questions and again, there is no wrong answer. What you choose to do with this insight is up to you. So where do you go next? Well I will lay out some options for you.

  • Get educated
    • Look up your state’s mental health organizations and look into their resources
    • Seek out organizations dedicated to suicide prevention and awareness for more information and even training opportunities
    • Attend a mental health first aid class held by your local NAMI
    • Follow verified mental health organizations and accounts on social media
    • Read blogs and research on suicide
    • Listen to podcasts that destigmatize mental health and suicide
  • Talk about suicide and mental health
    • Bring your questions and concerns to mental health professionals
    • Normalize the conversation amongst friends and family
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the question directly to someone you think may be contemplating suicide
  • Reach out to your loved ones whether you think they are doing okay or no; you never know what happens behind closed doors.
  • Share education and resources that you find with others in conversation and social media
  • Become an advocate for mental health and those struggling
    • Get involved in your local NAMI chapter
    • Research state organizations and learn about their missions to find an appropriate fit for your interests
  • Show up for those you care about and follow through on actions, be consistent and realistic.

You didn’t think I would give you all of this and then not give you some sort of direction on where to start for resources now did you? Here are several nation-wide resources followed by Illinois specific resources.

-Courtney, Graduate Intern

Nationwide Resources

Illinois Resources

If you or a loved one are in a crisis or struggling with thoughts of suicide please reach out to the National Helpline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741. For mental health services in the Chicagoland area contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates at 708-633-8000 or www.olivebranchcounselingassociates.com

2 thoughts on “Suicide Prevention and Awareness: Talking to Loved Ones

Add yours

  1. This is a great post about a difficult topic. Why it’s so difficult, I don’t know. We need to open up a bit more, listen actively and you might get little hints, or as you said, ask someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts. Having those thoughts doesn’t always mean they have a plan or the means and method or intent.

    Well done for sharing this article.

    Like

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