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Suicide Awareness: Providing Hope for Life

September 3, 2012

TLC Guest Blogger: Lori Gill, M.A.

Death by suicide is the intentional ending of one’s life, often resulting from feelings of overwhelming despair and hopelessness. Nearly 1 million people die by suicide each year, equivalent to one death by suicide every 40 seconds. It is estimated that for every one death, at least six people are directly affected. The complex grief, trauma and terror that can be associated with a death by suicide can have a profound effect on friends, families and communities. Suicide does not discriminate based on income, race, gender or intelligence. It truly is everyone’s problem. Therefore knowing what to look for, how to provide support, and how to get professional help is essential for everyone (Masecar, 2007; WHO, 2012).

Suicide Prevention

Know what to look for and take appropriate action. If you or someone you know exhibits any of the following signs:

  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
  • Feeling trapped and like there is no way out
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Showing changes in behavior, appearance or mood
  • Deliberately injuring themselves
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Abusing alcohol and/or drugs
  • Feeling hopeless or seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Returning of borrowed items or giving away personal belongings

You can help

  • stay calm and listen
  • let them talk about their feelings
  • be accepting; do not judge
  • ask if they have thoughts of suicide
  • take threats seriously
  • don’t swear secrecy
  • tell someone

Get help

  • Contact: family, friends, relatives, clergy, mental health professionals, counselors, crisis lines, teachers, doctors, or hospital emergency departments.

*Note – most areas have a local crisis line that is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week, as well as mobile crisis intervention teams in some areas.  Become familiar with your resources as well as National Resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.  These are essential resources to include in safety planning.

Get Educated

Talking about suicide does not place the idea in someone’s mind. It does, however, allow them to talk about an otherwise difficult and taboo subject. The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC) offers online and in-person suicide prevention training for those who would like to learn more about Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention.

Get Involved

Suicide is a community problem, which requires community solutions (Masecar, 2007).  Raising awareness, expanding resources and increasing training of professionals, students, youth and the general public is key for reducing the incidence of death by suicides. The National World Health Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10. Learn what other areas around the world are doing to raise awareness and how you can get your community involved in suicide prevention.  If you are involved in an initiative in your community I would love for you to share what you are doing within your community in this forum!

Intervention and Postvention

(Image Source: Lori Gill)

Although the bereavement process is always hard, a loss through suicide is a unique, complex and traumatic experience that is like no other. TLC’s Trauma Intervention Program is an excellent therapeutic tool to validate and normalize the various unique feelings that the child, youth or family member may be experiencing. Regardless of whether the child / youth was witness to an event, their depictions and imagined images of what occurred can be overwhelming.  Working through their experience with a trauma specialist will allow for the safe and structured externalization of these images as well as the cognitive reframing of associated feelings.

TLC also offers a variety of programs and resources to provide policies and procedures as well as resources and templates to assist with crisis response, debriefing and interventions for traumatic situations:

Resources

International Association for Suicide Prevention
American Association for Suicide Prevention
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
The Reasons to go on Living Project: Sharing stories of hope for life
Left Behind by Suicide: Stories of those bereaved by suicide

References

Masecar, D. (2007). What is working, what is hopeful.  Retrieved on August 14, 2012 from: http://www.creativecounsellingapproaches.org/suicide-prevention-and-intervention-resources.html

World Health Organization. (2012). Suicide. Retrieved on August 14, 2012 from:  http://www.who.int/topics/suicide/en/

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