A Cry for Help: Preventing Suicide

September 1, 2016

It is heartbreaking. Each year more than 42,000 Americans die by suicide.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month, with the objective of helping to focus attention on this serious problem. We all need to be informed and educated on how we can talk about suicide, and how we can help those we care about.

Suicide is tragic and hard to understand. It is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Suicides happen among all age groups, but the suicide rate is highest among people in middle age. Men are three and half times more likely to take their own lives than women.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide, says “there is no single cause to suicide. It most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition.”

If someone you care about is at risk for suicide, there are many ways you help them. Here are some steps suggested by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills.
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, such as, “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?” rather than, “Would you rather I call your psychiatrist, your therapist or your case manager?”
  • Talk openly and honestly about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or, “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
  • If there are multiple people, have one person speak at a time.
  • Ask what you can do to help.
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice.
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong.
  • If your loved one asks for something, provide it, as long as the request is safe and reasonable.
  • If you are nervous, try not to fidget or pace.
  • If your loved one is having hallucinations or delusions, be gentle and sympathetic, but do not get in an argument about whether the delusions or hallucinations are real.

The AFSP offers this additional piece of advice: “One of the most powerful gifts you can provide at (a time of crisis) is your presence. Even when you don’t know what to say, just be there with them…Face to face is best, but there are so many ways to connect with technology – Skype, phone, text, and social media.” Help is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

You can join other Americans concerned about the deadly toll of suicide in one of AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness Community Walks”. These fundraising events bring together friends, family, and supporters in nearly 350 communities nationwide. Here in Chicago, the walk will be held on October 15th at Arvey Field in Grant Park. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the walk starts at 11 a.m. For more information, visit: AFSP Illinois.

Nash Disability Law firmly believes that by getting involved and building our awareness about suicide, we can all create hope and save lives.