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It’s Ok to Ask: The Power of “Are You Ok?”

It’s not fun – or even easy – to talk about, but this month we’re talking about suicide.

Talking about the issue of suicide makes many of us feel uncomfortable, helpless and perhaps even frustrated. For those who know someone who has died by suicide, it impacts friends, family and the entire community. It is devastating; it is also preventable. The more the community learns about risk factors and warning signs, the more lives can be saved.

September is suicide prevention month and with the news of Colorado suicide rates in the news lately (read herehere or here,) it’s apparent now is the time we start asking a simple question.

Are you ok?

Those three words can be so powerful for someone who is considering suicide.

It feels overwhelming or scary to talk to someone about suicide and there are many myths that go along with conversations around suicide. Here are three of them:

Myth: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. And talking about that pain with someone may help.

Myth: People who contemplate suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Fact: People often give warning signs when they’re thinking of suicide. They want help. Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.

Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true-bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Jefferson Center also offers suicide resources, please see the suicide prevention section of our website.  We also offer training throughout the year.

Grand gestures aren’t always needed when talking about suicide. Often it’s the little things, the smaller conversations that can make the biggest impact. Reach out to someone who may be struggling, you never know how grateful he or she could be because of one simple conversation.

Shannon Gwash is the Director of Wellness Services for Jefferson Center and is also a Certified Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach. She earned her MS from the University of Denver in Strategic Health Communications/Behavior Change. She has nearly 10 years of experience in the communication world and nearly three in parenting … which clearly makes her an expert there. To stay sane, she runs around Sloan’s Lake, hikes with her daughter, enjoys outdoor concerts and reads nerdy books.

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