It's September! Not only does that mean summer is almost over and that it's time to start getting ready for holiday season, but also that this month out of 12 is when we highlight mental fitness and suicide prevention. September 6 officially kicked off Suicide Prevention Week!
Pandemic aside, times are tough for the masses and were already pretty rough before the virus came along. Everyday life consistently brings with it a series of risk factors for suicide attempts for millions of people worldwide, including but not limited to: struggles in academic or work performance, conflicts with loved ones or coworkers, not meeting one's own expectations, or feeling overwhelmed by disease or finances.
Several studies show that over 90% of those who choose to die by suicide announce their intent in some form to someone prior to their act even though they rarely vocalize their actual suffering leading up to the moment they follow through. Studies also show that the decision to die by suicide is usually made between five minutes to one hour of the act.
People who are struggling emotionally or mentally with life are not always easy to profile. Why is it hard? Because people struggling emotionally and mentally sometimes are you and me. We often believe that others cope the same way that we do or we cannot always understand why they (or we) feel the way we feel. How can we help others or others help us if the communication or direct indication that everything is NOT okay isn't sending us the red flag of awareness?
Here are some effective ways of possibly preventing a suicide attempt (maybe even your own) whether or not you know it:
1) Save 1-800-273-8255 in your phone and bookmark www.afsp.org in your mobile websites. You never know when you may be confronted with thoughts of ending your life or with someone who has been open with you about taking theirs. You will have instant access to assistance without needing to research and you can share the info in an instant. You can talk to someone, find groups, or find sources for professional help in your area.
2) Wear or gift uplifting attire or home decor. Much of how we feel is about surrounding environment. You are someone's direct environment if you live with others, attend social functions, or work with others. You are also your own environment as only you get to live in your body and you have some control over what's in your home. Sometimes a gentle reminder that "You Got This" can temporarily soothe the negative thoughts being processed about life or a situation.
I created my uplift jewelry collection Grace Abound with the intent of helping to inspire a "feeling" that we have control and we are strong when starting the day. If you have studied manifestation techniques, intentional thoughts must be repeated until the "feeling" of having becomes real.
Even if wearing a T-shirt or a cap or hanging motivational art in your home doesn't immediately change your life, it could possibly change someone else's who comes into contact with you that may be within that 5 minutes to 1 hour of taking their life. There is vast scientific evidence that visual memory has longer impact on the brain than audible memory.
3) Use the way you communicate to reduce intense emotions. Often when people express a dissatisfaction or alarming thought, the listener is inclined to show panic, shock, or rejection. Sometimes people are seeking direct feedback but there are ways to help them calmly reflect and process their own way through their thoughts or feelings.
If a loved one expresses to you that they are struggling, make every effort to simply listen first and not attempt to downplay the problem. Do not attempt to solve all their problems or offer solutions without asking if you can. Work to not show excessive attention, like constantly bringing up their situation or treating them too fragile, as this can enhance the desire to engage in self-harming behavior.
Ask if it is okay to check in with them the next day and then check in or ask if you can accompany them to seek professional help if you do not feel equipped to handle the situation appropriately. Whenever possible, try and clarify what you are hearing with statements such as "It sounds like you are saying..." or "am I right that you feel..." or "you seem to be dealing with so much, etc". Validate their feelings in order to steer towards a solution.
4) Volunteer. People who have gone through some type of suffering are usually the best people to help other people with suffering. Mental health is heavily linked to healthy physical activity. Either too much physical stimulus or not enough physical stimulus can cause anxious and depressive thought patterns. When you find yourself or notice someone in a slump or overly stressed for a consecutive number of days, devoting energy to someone else or something else can help cause a change.
Although I have chosen to volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention because this organization directly links to my interests in positive living, there are several other organizations that align with causes I believe in. Volunteering does not have to be heavy commitment and it doesn't always mean leading an event or raising money.
Volunteering your time to take someone a coffee and check on them, free babysitting for someone, or driving someone around because they are sick or physically limited is volunteering. Offering to do someone's laundry or build their website or wash their car because you are about to do yours is also volunteering. It is simply about taking the focus off yourself to focus on how your abilities can be useful to others. Self-efficacy is a form of health management and benefits both the person and the recipient of the behavior.
5) Donate. Once again, it doesn't always take a grand gesture to be effective. Maybe you care but don't have the time, the skills, or the resources to offer. You likely donate to people all the time without even realizing it.
When is the last time you took someone to dinner or lunch and paid? When is the last time you got someone a gift? When is the last time you paid for someone's gas or bought them that shirt they needed for work or gave away some shoes you can no longer stand to look at?
Donating isn't always about money, and even when you do choose to donate, you don't always need $50, $100, or $1000+ in order to make a difference and be worth something. There are four $5 bills in $20. If four people give $5, that's the equivalent of one person giving $20. It all adds up just like little choices we make throughout the day. What is something either from you or of you that you bring to the table that you would appreciate someone feeling good about?
6) Reach out. Whether you are the one that is feeling at your worst or you are the one concerned about someone else, opening the door to interaction is usually the healthiest move. Although someone may need a couple of days to process an issue, prolonged isolation further drives someone into vulnerability.
One of the greatest tricks of the mind is the belief that one is being a burden by admitting they need help or need to talk. One of the other biggest tricks is the belief that one will be judged for needing help. If you are someone that refuses to make time to be there for those in your circle or you don't feel that you have people that you can rely on based upon previous evidence (not imagined), then you need to re-evaluate your circle.
Everyone wants to feel important to someone or to an outcome. Taking the time to hear someone out or giving them a call, sending a card, recommending them, or simply acknowledging things about them are all tiny gestures that hold tremendous impact. People who feel they have no purpose or no belonging are at high risk of self-harming or suicidal attempts. If you do not feel comfortable expressing yourself to a loved one or to be the one they vent to, utilize a hotline to unleash negative feelings and begin healing.
After many suicide announcements, people often blame themselves for either not knowing that person was at that point or for feeling as if they did not do enough. Sometimes families try counseling or specific rehabilitation programs and those things may not be successful. Ultimately, the decision to die by suicide will always lie with the person who is considering it. You cannot force them to change their minds but you are being an excellent support if you can at least get them to consider delaying the process until they can think it through and likely find a way to go on with life.
7) Get training. Each of us have various passions and sometimes those passions overlap with those of people we know. These days there are numerous channels to investigate or acquire adequate information and to learn new skills. If you know someone suffering from an illness, you can learn viable ways of helping them cope. If you know someone is depressed because of finances, maybe you learned some things that turned your own problems around.
Maybe your child is suffering through their worst breakup or feeling anxiety about their sports team or exams... there are many books and courses that don't require a degree that can teach you how to effectively communicate or empathize in a manner that can help them understand that the vast majority of things like this can be overcome despite the temporary pain. It is okay to not understand what someone is going through but we should make reasonable attempt to validate it in that moment. We would want the same.
Likewise, if the problem is yours and it is causing you to feel distressed to the point that you are becoming debilitated, learning what you can about your problem can provide a new sense of purpose and accomplishment. Another factor is developing suicidal thoughts is the feeling of stagnation and lack of progress. When you feel that you are actively working towards change and can begin to see small results, day by day your self-efficacy will increase, thereby creating hope.
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One breath at a time. One day at a time. One change coming.