LEARN HOW YOU CAN IDENTIFY WARNING SIGNS WHEN A PERSON IS IN CRISIS
BY LATRICE SAMPSON RICHARDS, LPC-S, LMHC L, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH INITIATIVES AT UNITED WAY OF BROWARD COUNTY
During the entire month of September, we are observing National Suicide Prevention Month — understanding causes, educating our community about this epidemic problem and identifying the best ways to ensure prevention.
United Way of Broward County regards National Suicide Prevention Month as extremely important because it:
- promotes awareness by presenting vital information and spreading hope to people in crisis
- destigmatizes any embarrassment or shame by starting dialogue that can open channels to better care
- initiates change by understanding the struggles leading to this decision, shifting individual and collective perceptions, and building resources to increase prevention
Statistics related to suicide are sobering, especially as it affects our communities. For example, suicide is the second leading cause of death in Broward County of persons from ages 15 to 24, and in Florida, suicide ranks third as the most frequent cause of death.
However, there is light of hope: In a recent survey, 93% of Americans think suicide can be prevented. All of us can take an active role in suicide prevention by asking direct questions, listening to the answers without judgment, doing safety checks and encouraging someone in crisis to get connected to a behavioral healthcare professional.
Another essential way to support suicide prevention is to know the warning signs when a person is at risk. Here are the top symptoms to consider:
- talking of wanting to die or kill oneself
- looking for ways to kill oneself
- talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- feeling trapped or having emotional pain
- saying they are a burden to others
- drastically increasing use of drugs or alcohol
- acting in reckless or impulsive behaviors
- feeling angry frequently or having revenge-seeking behaviors
- undergoing a dramatic increase or decrease in sleeping habits
- demonstrating extreme mood swings
- feeling no sense of purpose or belonging
- withdrawing from family, friends, work, school, activities or hobbies
- making arrangements or putting their affairs in order
- giving away thing, such as prized possessions
Also, reviewing these questions and answers can be extremely helpful when you or someone you know may be vulnerable to suicide.
I’m having suicidal thoughts. What should I do?
- Call 911 — suicidal thoughts are an emergency.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 — this 24/7 hotline is available for anyone in distress who wants to talk.
- Call 211 — this resource in Broward County can connect individuals with 24-hour telephone counseling, emotional support, suicide prevention and intervention, and a range of community resources.
- Visit the Behavioral Health Treatment Service Locator — this free, confidential, and anonymous source of information can connect people to treatment facilities for mental health and substance use.
What should I say if someone threatens to commit suicide?
- If you know someone at risk of suicide, call 911. Someone in crisis immediately should see a doctor, nurse or mental health professional.
- Talk to the person. Your willingness to talk shows you care, and your help can be instrumental in preventing a person’s suicide. And know talking about your concerns will not increase the person’s risk of suicide.
- Sincerely listen to the person. Do not offer advice or judgment, and let the person know he or she is not alone. Don’t worry about saying the correct thing. Your presence is what is most helpful.
- Find out if the person has a suicide plan. If there is a plan, don’t leave this person alone, and enlist help from other friends or family.
- Call either 211 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
What should I do if someone I know is talking about suicide?
If your friend or loved one is not in immediate danger but is talking about suicide and is showing risk factors for self- harm, take this person seriously. If you can, remove any objects that can be used in a suicide attempt. Encourage the person to call (or call together) support services such as 211 Broward. Conversations with a skilled, trained counselor at 211 Broward are free, confidential and available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Suicidal thoughts can afflict anyone across any demographic. Many people suffering from suicidal thoughts can cover them quite well, and families, loved ones and friends experiencing a loss from suicide can be thrown into anguish, trauma and chaos. Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it can be preventable. Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can save lives.
One of three pillars of United Way of Broward County’s mission is Health, and our staff and community partners are committed to helping people in our community navigate through a variety of struggles so they will find a lasting sense of hope and purpose. Our Prevention Resource Center also provides a wide range of educational toolkits, podcasts, videos and more to support and advance suicide prevention in Broward County.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or displaying warning signs, please dial 9-8-8 or send a text to 741741. When calling 9-8-8, Veterans should press 1.
And remember — It’s okay to not be okay.