Observing National Suicide Prevention Awareness MonthPat Fontana
If you or a loved one struggle with the idea of suicide, please know that there is hope. You are not alone. When you are in crisis, help is available and there is no shame in reaching out to others for support during this challenging time in your life. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to focus on understanding the warning signs as well as knowing the options for help.
In times of crisis, know that you can reach out to someone who is there to help you:
- If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
- If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
- If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
Suicidal Thoughts Affect Everyone
Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.
Every year thousands of individuals die by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss (often called “suicide loss survivors”) are left in the dark. Too often the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly.
In 2018, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 48,000 people. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. There were more than two and a half times as many suicides (48,344) in the United States as there were homicides (18,830) in 2018.
COVID-19 and Mental Health
The coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for many people, affecting both their physical and mental health. The stress of the outbreak, along with worries about finances and the increased isolation, has taken its toll already.
A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in late June found that 40.9% of those participating in the surveys experienced an adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including those who reported symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), those with trauma- and stressor-related disorder symptoms related to COVID-19 (26.3%), those who reported having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%), and those who reported having seriously considered suicide in the preceding 30 days.
Warning Signs and Behaviors
One of the keys of suicide prevention is to be aware of the warning signs of suicidal thoughts in yourself or your loved one. If you recognize any of these signs, get help right away.
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Impulsive or reckless behavior.
Even more critical, suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
- Saying goodbye to friends and family.
Offering Support to a Loved One
When your loved one is experiencing a suicide-related crisis, you may be caught off-guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do. The behaviors of a person experiencing a crisis can be unpredictable, changing dramatically without warning. Try to talk openly and honestly with your loved one. Calmly ask simple and direct questions such as “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
One of the most important steps in offering support and getting help for a loved one with suicidal thoughts or behaviors is to remove any guns, knives, or stockpiled pills from their environment. Then express your concern about their health and safety and your support for their well-being. Don’t debate about whether suicide is right or wrong. Be patient with them and reassure them that you are there to talk to about what they’re going through.
Make sure that you adopt an open and compassionate mindset when they’re talking. Instead of “arguing” or trying to disprove any negative statements they make (“Your life isn’t that bad!”), try active listening techniques such as reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts. This can help your loved one feel heard and validated.
Help for You
Mental health professionals are trained to help you understand your feelings and improve your mental wellness and resiliency. Psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, can help you recognize how patterns of thinking and behavior are affecting you, validate your feelings, and learn coping skills that are so important to suicide prevention. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom, just like any other — they can be treated, and they can improve over time.
Suicide is not the answer. There is hope.
R&A Therapeutic Partners is Here for You
At R&A Therapeutic Partners, we guide you or your loved one through personalized counseling sessions in a comfortable, supportive environment that helps you become better equipped to cope with life’s challenges in a more constructive way. We help you get control of your life again. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we want you to stay safe and healthy, so we offer telehealth and online therapy services for your continued well-being. Contact the Miami therapeutic consultants Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno at R&A Therapeutic Partners at 786-452-7352 to schedule your appointment.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.