In ninth grade, the school counselor brought me and several other students into her office. She informed us that a peer had committed suicide. Later, the entire school was informed. It is devastating to get that type of news. Every 15 minutes another family, friend, and school deal with news of a suicide.
This coming week is Suicide Prevention Week. Often people think that the issue of suicide prevention is only for mental health professionals, but sometime in each of our lives we will probably have it touch us. Here are a few things that every person should know to help a friend, family member, or co-worker.
If you are concerned, ask
Asking a person if they are suicidal is the best first step. When a person is dealing with intense emotions, friends often feel uncomfortable asking about suicide. However, a direct question from a friend or family member is shown to reduce the risk of suicide.
Understand more about suicide
For a number of years, San Francisco has employed interviewers to speak with people who have jumped from the Bay Bridge and survived. One thing that an overwhelming majority report is that during their fall, they regretted the decision and hoped to live. These individuals often became advocates for suicide prevention. Further, research continues to support that suicidal feelings often last only hours, but return if help is not sought.
Knowing that you can ask about suicide and that it is often a short-term feeling is a great first step; so is getting a friend's help. Third Level Crisis Center (922-4800) is a 24/7 resource. Also, supporting the individual through counseling and being a friend is the best role that you can have.
When we as a community work together to help those that are struggling, when we ask, understand, and refer, it can help reduce suicide. Each one of us can use our relationships and unique roles to be a part of a more healthy community.
Joseph R. Sanok, is owner and a counselor with Mental Wellness Counseling. He is hosting a free Suicide Prevention Wine Party with Northwestern Michigan College Student Life and Lake Side Counseling on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. at Left Foot Charley. Visit www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/wine for more details.