Understanding, identifying, and speaking up could make all the difference.
By Kristin Carlson, Marketing Specialist, Bonner General Health
September is National Suicide Prevention month; yet, recognizing the warning signs of suicide and taking them seriously should foster year-round attention. Understanding suicide, including the misconceptions, could help you identify someone at risk.
Bonner General Health Psychologist Dr. Joe Wassif shares his thoughts on suicide and addressing the subject.
Have the Conversation – It is a common concern that asking someone if they are suicidal will “plant the seed” or give them the idea. This is not necessarily the case. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation and ask the hard questions. You are doing more good by speaking up and giving the person an opportunity to share their feelings than saying nothing. Maybe they won’t open up, but they will know you care, which might give them the support they need.
It’s not always the most visibly depressed who are most at risk. So often, it’s the person who seems the most accomplished, “happy,” has a supportive family, lots of friends, etc., that people are shocked to hear completed suicide.
- The added pressure on young people today to be perfect can cause immense stress and anxiety = risk for suicide.
- Adults experience an equal amount of pressure to be accomplished in their careers, be a “super-mom/dad,” volunteer, etc. Although adults have most likely developed more coping tools and strategies, they also feel those pressures that can cause high stress & anxiety.
- Today’s culture of “no one likes a complainer” rings true, forcing those suffering to put on a happy face and pretend everything is fine.
Depression is a “state,” not a trait.” Most suicidal thoughts are not about ending your life; it’s about wanting short term relief: escaping your current situation or an event that is causing someone angst. Recognizing your depression is a state (the way you are feeling currently) and not a “trait” (depression is not who you are) can really help. Knowing you’re in a state gives hope that things will get better.
When it comes to your mental health and thoughts of suicide, knowing your risk factors is essential; however, try focusing on the protective factors:
- Elements of Hope – What are you looking forward to being around for in the future? “I will get through this because I want to be around for ____.”
- Know your resources (see below).
- Get outside, reach out to and spend time with friends, get a pet, stay away from impairing substances (drugs/alcohol), and take your prescribed medication.
Having thoughts of suicide or even feelings of helplessness is not a reason to feel ashamed. On the contrary, the stigma around the subject is declining, and the more we talk, the more we can help those in need.
If you or someone you know is struggling, seek help.
Idaho Suicide Hotline (208) 398-HELP (4357)
NAMI Far North offers support groups and resources (208) 597-2047
Talk to your doctor, a counselor, supervisor, teacher, friend, someone you trust – just let someone know how you are feeling.
Local ER – if you are in a crisis and have no options, go to the Emergency Department. They may not have all the resources you need right away, but they are there 24-hours a day and will be able to keep you safe.
Bonner General Behavioral Health offers outpatient mental health services for adult and pediatric patients. Learn more at www.bonnergeneral.org.
This article was written for publication in Sandpoint Living Local Magazine – September 2021.