September is National Suicide Prevention Month and a reminder that we can all take action to prevent suicide. Here are 5 action steps that can make an impact on someone’s life:
- ASK – Ask the tough question. When somebody you know is in emotional pain, ask them directly: “Are you thinking about suicide?” Studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts. In fact, findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.
- BE THERE – If your friend is thinking about suicide, listen to their reasons for feeling hopeless or in pain. Listen with compassion and empathy, without dismissing or judging. Increasing someone’s connectedness to others and limiting their isolation (both in the short and long-term) has shown to be a protective factor against suicide.
- HELP KEEP THEM SAFE – Is your friend thinking about suicide? Ask if they’ve thought about how they would do it and separate them from anything they could use to hurt themselves. Knowing the answers to each of these questions can tell us a lot about the imminence and severity of danger the person is in. The 988 Lifeline can always act as a resource, if you aren’t entirely sure what to do next.
- HELP THEM CONNECT – Help your friend connect to a support system, whether it’s the 988 Lifeline, family, friends, clergy, coaches, co-workers or therapists, so they have a network to reach out to for help.
- FOLLOW UP – Check in with the person you care about on a regular basis. Making contact with a friend in the days and weeks after a crisis can make a difference in keeping them alive.