September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Dying by suicide is a tragedy for both the one who dies and the family and friends left behind. People who are grieving the death of a loved one to suicide need- you- to- be- their- support. Loss survivors grapple with complex feelings such as fear, grief, shame, and anger. Accept their feelings and provide support without criticism. Use sensitivity during holidays and anniversaries as these stir up memories of the lost loved one, and emphasize their absence. Use the lost loved one’s name when talking to survivors. This shows that you have not forgotten this important person, and can open the door for sharing.
To those who have had a suicide attempt…you can recover. It takes time to heal both physically and emotionally. Taking care of yourself is an important part of your recovery. Your “self-care” activities can be anything that makes you feel good about yourself. Don’t keep suicidal feelings to yourself. Talk to friends, call a therapist or go to a support group. Have a step-by-step plan ready for if/when you have thoughts of harming yourself. Work each step until you feel safe. Find a good counselor to help you with long-term strategies to work through the emotions and circumstances that led to your attempt.
If you are a young person thinking about self-harm, don’t be afraid to let your friends, family, or teachers know what you need help with. Make a safety plan to guide you through difficult moments and keep you safe. Remember that this feeling can be overcome. Family conflict, relationships, grades, sexual identity, and the loss of important people can seem impossible to deal with. But with support from others, you can. Evaluate the relationships in your life: Love and friendship are all about respect. Toxic or unhealthy relationships can negatively affect you. Whether you’re dating or building new friendships, remember your rights. If you’re being bullied, ask for help from a safe adult.
If someone discloses suicidal thoughts to you, take them seriously. This is not “just doing it for attention.” It is a cry for help. If your child, friend, or family member confides thoughts of suicide, believe them and get help. Listen with empathy and provide support. Often your friends or family will let you know if they are thinking about harming themselves. Other times, you may notice changes in behavior may show that someone is struggling. If your friend is considering suicide, don’t promise to keep it a secret. Tell him or her you can help, but you need to involve other people. Neither of you have to face this alone.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or death please know, there is help. Take that step to share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. Appleseed has caring staff available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling our 24 Hour Crisis hotline at (419) 289-6111. You may also visit Suicidepreventionlifeline.org for more information.
Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCC-S
Executive Director, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center