Psyche is powered by Vocal.
Vocal is a platform that provides storytelling tools and engaged communities for writers, musicians, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creators to get discovered and fund their creativity.
How does Vocal work?
Creators share their stories on Vocal’s communities. In return, creators earn money when they are tipped and when their stories are read.
How do I join Vocal?
Vocal welcomes creators of all shapes and sizes. Join for free and start creating.
To learn more about Vocal, visit our resources.Show less
Due to recent events, I felt it was necessary to make more resources available on this topic. I am going to give this a trigger warning as this can be a very sensitive topic for many viewers. Instead of getting furious with certain people and exposing the fine details of their wrongful actions to take my personal story of overcoming suicide and shining it in a negative light, I’m going to simply write this as a, “Hey, that’s not okay, I don’t want to fight you, I just want to educate you.” I refuse to release any names or personal information of the people involved because I am a big believer in privacy. Thank you for understanding, let’s begin.
Within the last two months I have been participating in suicide prevention educational courses from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. All of this information was taken from multiple meetings and you can find more information at afsp.org. I really want to make this clear that this is not training, I am not a professional, this is just simply to educate. Even though I personally struggled with this topic myself, I still needed to be educated when I help others through this. Again, something I want to emphasize on, not every person who has struggled with thoughts or actions relating to suicide, give out the information that you may need to hear, or they may communicate to you something that they think could be helpful which actually could be the opposite. I’m sure these people mean well—after all, I was one of these people—but just because I’ve been there doesn’t mean I know how to save everyone person going through it.
First and foremost this is one of the concepts that even I gave out wrong information on when helping others. Suicide prevention is a health issue. Before I used to use these exact words, “committed” and “failed (or) successful attempt.” These words we should actually avoid using. I’ve used the term “committed” all the time when approaching this subject. In many locations, unfortunately, suicide is considered a crime because it is an act that causes death. Here’s the issue with that, suicide is a mental health issue. And I’m not saying only people with mental illnesses experience suicidal ideations. Everyone has mental health, not everyone has a mental illness. You wouldn’t say someone committed cancer now, would you? Hence why we really do need to raise awareness that this is certainly a health issue.
Now, evidence from 2017 shows that 1 in 4 people experience a mental health condition. Even though Depression is the most common mental illness associated with this topic, we cannot assume everyone has it or that it is the only reason for these circumstances. Other mental illnesses that could be related to this subject are Bipolar Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, and many others as well.
If you have followed me and my other stories of overcoming suicide, you know that last year I wrote many pages of notes trying to explain why so no one would be left asking any questions. Here’s where I went wrong, again. There is no single cause. There is no, “Why?”
First, we need to address the risk factors. The most intriguing concept that I learned from these meetings is when it comes to prevention and safety, always remember the number 3. “Stop. Drop. Roll.” Here, for emergency services, we contact, “911.” The Jason Foundation for Suicide Prevention uses the 3 B’s, “Be Aware. Be Able. Be Prepared.” The crisis text line in the USA is the same 3 numbers, “741741.” Why? Because it’s easy to memorize and has a greater chance to stick with someone rather than something that’s longer than a paragraph.
So, when educating people on prevention, we like to inform them about the three risk factors: Health, Environmental, and Historical. Health, we already discussed above with mental health conditions. Studies have also shown people who have experienced traumatic brain injuries could be at high risk for impulsive actions and decisions. For environmental factors we must recognize if someone who is at risk has any access to means where he or she can cause harm to his or herself, has been undergoing prolonged stress, stressful life events have occurred, and exposure to another person’s suicide. (On a side note, when identifying stressors we need to keep in mind something that may not be stressful for us, may be stressful for someone else. Everyone has different triggers so it is very important that we listen to those in need and not invalidate them.) Last, but not least, here’s what we need to look for with historical factors, which are previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, and child abuse.
Next, we need education to recognize the warning signs. Remember, warning signs are not a cry for attention, they are a cry for help. Again, broken down into three categories, we have Behavior, Talk, and Mood. Red flags should be going off in our heads if someone talks about killing themselves, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, and unbearable pain. The behaviors we need to look for are increased use of alcohol or drugs, looking for ways to cause harm to themselves, withdrawing from activities, isolating from friends and family, increase or decrease in sleeping patterns, giving away prized possessions, aggression, and fatigue. One thing that I learned, from the last meeting I attended, was one of the most common prized possessions given away was a pet. Lastly, for mood, if you notice any signs of depression, apathy, rage, irritability, impulsivity, humiliation, and/or anxiety, this should raise some concern. They say about 80% of the people who die by suicide show clear warning signs. Usually these signs are evident for two to four weeks or more. Others do not show clear signs and since we are not professionals, we can’t beat ourselves about it by taking full responsibility. It is not your fault.
The final thing I want to talk about is reaching out. When we reach out to someone who may be in need, we have to keep in mind that some options may be limited. What may be available to us, may not be for someone else. For example, not all insurance companies cover professional help for mental health services, this is still in development, but it is important to keep trying. So when we reach out to someone, try to provide multiple resources. We should always encourage people to seek treatment. About 2 out of 5 people with a mental health condition seek professional help. You wouldn’t walk around with a broken leg for over a month. To find a behavioral health provider you can go to findtreatment.samhsa.gov or mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help. We also have to keep in mind that one does not get better just by taking medication or going to therapy alone. For more information on those specific topics, you can reach out to me and I have links to provide for you.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for reaching out. Please DO talk in private, listen to their story, express concern and caring, ask directly about suicidal thoughts, and of course encourage them to seek mental health services, and do check in one them more than once. Suicide prevention is not a five minute conversation and then never talk about it again. It does not go away because one person cared for a total of five minutes. If you are able to, help someone build a support system. Ask, “who do you turn to during hard times?” And always try to make sure they can contact a professional. A lot of people also need access to healthy coping mechanisms, again if you need a list, you can always reach out to me. My list of coping mechanisms strictly came from a mental health facility. DO NOT debate the value of life, minimize their feelings, or give them advice to fix their problems right then and there, and don’t tell the person in crisis, “You need to reach out.” Be the person to reach out and assume you are the only one doing so. Okay, but Rachel, don’t you always offer advice to people? When someone is in a crisis situation, they need someone to hear them out and listen to them. Sometimes they need their mind taken off of things. Over time is when I offer advice, not in the middle of a crisis. And when I do offer advice it is when people ask for it, but also its more of a suggestion. I say something along the lines of, “Hey this worked for me, maybe you could try this if you’d like.” Because something that works for may not work for everyone else, and that’s completely okay. Which is why I have many resources to offer.
When someone is in a crisis and this person has access to means to act on impulsive decisions or they have a plan to carry out, contact emergency services. When you reach out to someone, the most important thing is time. Have time for a conversation, give time for medication to work, time to understand, and so on. During that time you reach out, reduce someone’s means to take action. In the moment when someone is seriously contemplating suicide, on average, it only takes about 10 minutes for someone to act on it.
If you are not in the United States and would like other crisis hotlines, please contact me.