September is Suicide Prevention Month. You can do your part by learning the facts about suicide and starting conversations. Here are three common myths and facts about suicide.
Myth #1 – If I ask someone if they are thinking about killing themselves, it will give them the idea and encourage them to do it.
FALSE: Research shows that asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will not put the idea in their head or push them into action. In fact, asking someone directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” may be the question to help save their life.
Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma, but also can be a relief for someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts as they will be relieved that someone cares to know, and listen.
Psychologists suggest using phrases such as “Have you been unhappy lately?” or “You seem down today, tell me what’s going on?” or “How are you feeling?” as door-openers to the conversation. You can also look to find someone comfortable asking the question directly for you.
If this person says they are thinking, or have thought, about killing themselves, stay calm, and let them know that help is available.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has an effective 5 step plan for communicating with someone who may be suicidal:
- Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking people if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
- Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
- Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
- Help them connect: Save the Colorado Crisis Services’ number in your phone, so it’s there when you need it: 1-844-493-8255. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional. For additional support, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- TALK (8255).
- Stay connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the person.
For more detailed information about the five-step plan, visit The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website.
Myth #2 – Suicides happen out of the blue, with no warning.
FALSE: While people express themselves differently, there are usually warning signs to look out for in others that may signal they are in distress.
Whether you are worried about someone having suicidal ideation, or not, the following signs should always be taken seriously and addressed by a professional.
- A noticeable change in behavior. This can be either euphoria or sadness.
- Signs of depression (sleeping problems, changes in appetite, feelings of hopelessness, etc.).
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Obsession with death.
- Decline in performance or participation in activities.
- Giving away prized possessions.
- Unusual purchases (weapon, rope, pills).
- Sudden happiness after a prolonged depression.
- Talking or joking about suicide or dying.
- Withdrawal from friends or family or saying goodbye to them.
- Previous suicide attempts.
- Statements about feeling hopeless, worthless, helpless.
- Inability to concentrate or trouble to remember.
- Chronic pain or frequent complaints of physical symptoms.
Myth #3 – Once someone becomes suicidal, they will always be.
FALSE: Suicidal thoughts are often attributed to mental health conditions however, studies tell us that approximately 54% of people who have died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
Suicidal crises are typically short-term, time-limited instances that are based on the desire to control painful emotions.
With professional help, ongoing support and treatment, people who have had suicidal thoughts can live long, healthy lives.
What else you can do to help prevent suicide
Suicide is a public health concern that we can all help to demystify, spread awareness, and provide support around. If we give space to the conversation around suicide and shed the stigma that surrounds it, we can collectively help our communities to prevent suicide. Here’s how you can continue to support suicide prevention this month and beyond.
Keep the number for Colorado Crisis Services handy
If you don’t know where to begin getting mental health, substance use or emotional help for yourself or someone you know, start here. When you call Colorado Crisis Services, you will be connected to a trained crisis counselor. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255.
Sign up for a FREE suicide prevention training
- Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) – 3 simple steps that anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. Just as people trained in CPR help save thousands of lives each year, people trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help.
- safeTALK Suicide Alertness Training – 3-hour training that deals openly with the stigma around suicide and prepares participants to become more aware of suicide prevention opportunities in their community.
Get Involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Colorado Chapter
AFSP Colorado brings together people from all backgrounds who want to prevent suicide in our communities. To take action with AFSP, visit their website for information around joining a walk, volunteering, and more!
Be there for the young adults in your life
Youth need support from their loved ones during the many ups-and-downs of their teen years. You can help them grow and develop strategies for dealing with the changes that come their way. Sometimes, just asking your teen how they’re feeling can help. Validate their feelings. Help them learn how to care for themselves and cope in healthy ways. The best way to show your teen you care? Be there. Have a talk with your teen. Learn more at twelvetalks.com.
Report concerning comments or behaviors on social media
Many social media platforms offer an opportunity to report concerns related to suicide or self-harm. Learn more on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website about how you can contact safety teams through various platforms so they can reach out and connect the user with the help they need.