Five percent. One out of twenty. That’s the reality of our community, our country. Within the last year, one out of twenty adults seriously considered ending their life.
Suicide. It is an epidemic, and we don’t talk about it much. Suicide talk is taboo. Don’t go there. But, we must.
Every person needs to be connected to at least one other person, and to be able to reach out, talk about depression, sadness, and hopelessness. We all need hope, an expectation that there is a tomorrow, there is opportunity for change, that our lives make a difference, and that life is worth living. Life’s problems can’t be only on our own shoulders.
Last week, I was part of a workshop, getting trained with skills to take on this intensely personal problem, to be a first responder in addressing suicide in our culture. Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a national movement to develop a first response model in our communities. Evidence based models and techniques gave us the tools and the confidence to reach out and connect with someone who is possibly contemplating ending their life.
Invite a conversation, and plunge into the “perfect storm” that is roaring through their lives, and make connection. When the signs are there, find the courage to “ask the question” and begin talking about suicide, and options for change, connecting them with you and connecting them with resources to be able to move ahead with their lives, and regain hope.
Suicidal thoughts have stormed through my own life, sometimes ending lives far too early, or paralyzing people with deep depression and isolation. Surviving family and friends are wracked with uncertainly and chaos, leaving profound questions unanswered and lives thrown off track.
Making connections is what changes lives and saves lives. What I’ve learned in life, and relearned at the ASIST training, is that you do connect. You do reach out, engage people, and show your genuine concern for them and their well-being. You connect with your own humanity and your fellows, and make that vital one to one connection.
Showing concern and empathy, and making that connection often saves lives and gives people a new sense of hope and possibility in their lives.
Help make them safe now, and help them develop their plan to be safe now.
When you have that conversation, make those connections, one to one. And, help them connect with others; not only with friends and family, but professional care givers and health care providers. Be the gatekeeper for them and help them find their way.
The National Suicide Prevention Hot Line, 1-800-243-8255(TALK) is a valuable resource. I’ve added it to my phone contacts. Other resources: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org, Youthline (1-877-YOUTH-911) and their text: TEEN2TEEN@839863.
Connect with your local mental health services provider. In my hometown, Tillamook, their crisis line is 800-962-2851.
All of these services operate 24 hours a day, because suicide is a 24 hour a day issue of community wide concern.
Help build a resilient, safe community.
----Neal Lemery 9/1/2016