About Suicide Prevention
PLEASE NOTE: If you are having thoughts of suicide, I urge you to call the hotline in your geographic area to speak with personnel trained in suicide first aid intervention. See hotlines below…
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Recently, I heard there was going to be a class called safeTALK (sponsored by National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Mental Health Association). The acronym safeTALK stands for ‘Suicide Alertness For Everyone’/'Tell, Ask, Listen, KeepSafe’.
Having had direct contact with multiple people who were experiencing thoughts of suicide in the days before I learned of the class, I was pleased and grateful to have the opportunity to take such a well-regarded class about such an important topic. The class brochure came to my attention at a time when I was wishing I had more knowledge about this topic and how to facilitate getting people to the suicide first aid resources they needed.
A person with thoughts of suicide usually gives what are referred to as “invitations”, commonly known as signs or indicators. This is where the person is literally inviting help and tells someone (as clearly as possible either by his/her words, behaviors, or actions) that he/she is having thoughts of suicide. Invitations may not always be blatantly obvious and they are sometimes missed. An alert helper knows what to look for and is thus more likely to notice such “invitations”.
It would be impossible to include all of the information I would like to here. I am certain I will be writing more articles in the future about this topic. There was simply too much information covered to do it justice in one article. However, I thought I would take a moment to list an abbreviated sampling of examples of “invitations”. These are things to look for around you. Someone you know could be sending out signals that he/she is in need of help:
Actions: Withdrawal (family, friends, school, work); Giving away possessions; Extreme behavior changes
Thoughts (that may be expressed verbally): “No one can do anything to help me now”; “I wish I were dead”; “Everyone will be better off without me”
Feelings: Desperate; angry; guilty; worthless; lonely; hopeless
Physical: Lack of interest in appearance; disturbed sleep; physical health complaints
Now, I know many readers here may be thinking that much of what’s listed above could be a sign of other issues and not be “invitations” at all. For example, the “physical” section above may look familiar to chronic illness patients who are not having thoughts of suicide. I understand where you’re coming from if you’re thinking this. The important thing that I took out of learning the invitations above (and others) is that it really can be difficult to tell an “invitation” from, say, a chronic illness patient who is struggling with issues such as having the time/energy to focus on appearance as they might have previously. However, since these are a few of the key “invitations” that people with thoughts of suicide tend to display or say, I think it is well worth noting them.
If you notice potential “invitations”, it’s important to take them seriously and follow up as needed. (Again, I will have to elaborate on details in future posts but, by all means, refer anyone you are concerned about to a hotline if you believe the person is having thoughts of suicide). Some people think asking a person outright if he/she is having thoughts of suicide might “plant the seed in his/her head”. This is not true. If you have reason to believe someone is having thoughts of suicide, it is important not to set aside your concerns. If you believe someone may be having thoughts of suicide, there are two ways to ask them about it:
1) Are you thinking about suicide?
2) Are you thinking of killing yourself?
While these may seem very blunt ways of asking, this is not a time to beat around the bush. It is important to be direct with your questions (like above). If you are concerned enough about the person to ask the question in the first place, it is important to be direct. Again, bringing up the topic won’t “plant the seed in anyone’s head”. So, asking directly like this is an important means for determining whether the person is, in fact at risk for completing suicide. (Please note that I used the word “complete” rather than “commit”. Please refer to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Recommendations for language” section. The safeTALK class taught us to use the word “complete” rather than “commit”).
The purpose of becoming a trained helper (by taking a class like safeTALK) is not to learn counseling techniques or to do a suicide intervention – as these techniques require much more training. The purpose of the class is to simply recognize a person’s invitations, ask them directly about suicide, and if their answer is yes, to connect that person with suicide thoughts to suicide first aid intervention caregivers. An example of a KeepSafe statement would be, “We need extra help. I want to connect you with someone who can help you KeepSafe”.
“All forms of help-seeking about suicide need to be encouraged. A decision to live is far more likely when a person at risk can make it in the company of a helper who is comfortable talking about suicide. The simple and yet profound first approach to any person at risk should be, ‘let’s talk’. That message regards the disclosure of thoughts of suicide as a potential ‘new beginning’. Help-seeking is supported by access to many kinds of resources that can provide help. Crisis line workers, persons aware of the danger of suicide and trained suicide interveners are some of the key resources needed to make help seeking credible”…
Source: Page 10 of the safeTALK Resource Book
© 2008 LivingWorks Education Incorporated
At this point I would like to pause to make it very clear that I am not trained in suicide first aid intervention such as the ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) program. The safeTALK class I took essentially helps to bridge the gap between the community and suicide first aid resources (i.e. suicide prevention hotlines).
For an explanation of the difference between alertness training (like safeTALK) and skills intervention training (like ASIST), see below. This explanation comes from LivingWorks, the company that designed the two programs:
The safeTALK class that I took was very informative, helpful and powerful. If you are interested in looking into whether safeTALK training is available in your area, just Google it. When I Googled it, this list came up for New York State:
Alternatively, you might want to check with one of the organizations that sponsored the workshop I attended. Perhaps they can direct you to one in your area. I cannot recommend this class highly enough. Our instructor, Eric Weaver (Executive Director of Overcoming the Darkness) was informative, helpful, and encouraging. With the content of the material being so serious, he obviously took measures to ensure that careful language choices were made and that there was an appropriate tone for the classroom atmosphere. At the same time, I do not want to leave the impression that the class was a gloomy experience. On the contrary, everyone in the room was clearly highly motivated to get everything they could out of the class and it was a positive, empowering experience because the end goal of taking such a class is to help people gain access to the suicide first aid resources they need.
Having never taken a class quite like this, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Early on, I became very comfortable thanks to the helpful instructor, great materials (videos) presented during the class, and the wonderful people who took the class with me.
This list of resources is not all-inclusive. Again, if you are in crisis and are having trouble locating a hotline in you area, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or please click here to search by geographical area:
This post was written by Jeanne at http://chronichealing.com. Copyright © Jeanne — chronichealing.com. All rights reserved.
If you’re like me, you find online shopping a helpful alternative. Thank you for supporting my blog by using my Amazon ads. I appreciate your support!
New to blog commenting? Just click “comments” below post. (If you set up a Gravatar, your picture will show when you comment).