Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the country. In Colorado, the rate of suicide in rural areas is higher than in urban areas, at 27.7 deaths per 100,000 people versus 22.1 per 100,000, respectively. Suicide does not discriminate — people of all backgrounds, income levels and ages are affected. Whether you know someone who has died by suicide or if you have experienced suicidal ideation yourself, it is hard to find someone who hasn’t been affected in one way or another. However widespread, suicide is preventable.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month — the perfect opportunity to take action, become part of the solution and maybe even learn how to save a life. Especially for the month of September, The Center for Mental Health would like to remind people of things they can do, today, to make a difference and be a resource to change someone’s life.
Program a crisis line into your phone
When you or a loved one enters an emotional crisis, do you know where to turn? A simple phone call to one of the support lines can get you, or your loved one, the help they need. Take a moment right now to program a crisis line into your phone’s contacts. This simple step now could help save someone’s life later.
The Center for Mental Health’s Support Line 970-252-6220
Colorado Crisis Line 1-844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
Take a class
Learn the steps to help someone who is thinking about suicide. Consider registering for a QPR course. QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer and demonstrates the steps to help someone get the support they need. The one-and-a-half hour course can be taken virtually and is offered the first Thursday of every month through The Center for Mental Health. If you are interested in going a bit deeper, Mental Health First Aid provides a more comprehensive look at the ways you can save a life when someone is in a mental health crisis and more importantly how you can get them connected to the help they need. Register for both courses at centermh.org/classes.
Schedule a check in with your friends and family
People get busy — and in the age of social media it is easy to let months go by without connecting with someone in a meaningful way. Schedule friends and family check in time each month. Do it right now, put it in your calendar and decide who in your world could use a check-in. Real connection, like a phone call or a visit, lets the people in your life know you care and that they have your support. If the time comes that they need to talk to someone, you will be there and hopefully they will know it.
Learn warning signs
While a suicide attempt may occur without any warning, in most cases individuals who are contemplating suicide exhibit some warning signs about their pain and intent. By learning the most common warning signs, you may be able to connect with someone more deeply and get them help. Some warning signs of suicide include:
Threatening to hurt/kill oneself
Seeking access to lethal means (especially firearms)
Increased alcohol or drug use and/or risky activities
Expressing guilt and shame or feeling like a burden to others
Sleeping too much or too little
Abrupt changes in mood and behavior
Withdrawal from family and friends or saying goodbye/giving away important items
Feeling or expressing extreme psychological pain and distress
Talking, writing, or posting on social media about death, dying, or suicide
5. Learn risk factors
Much like how warning signs can help us see a potential suicidal risk, risk factors can also help us identify situations in which suicide might be more likely. Some potential risk factors include:
Prior suicide attempts
Abuse of alcohol and other drugs
Access to lethal means (especially firearms)
Chronic physical illness or pain
Trauma history (abuse, violence, neglect, suicide loss survivor)
Untreated mental health condition (depression and mood disorders are most associated with suicidal thinking and behavior)
While suicide occurs in all age groups, males ages 45-64, and young people ages 10-24 are at increased risk
While women attempt suicide more often than men, men die by suicide more often due to use of more lethal means (guns)
Stressful life event (rejection, divorce, financial crisis, life transitions or loss)
How to help
If someone you know needs help, take action. Your prompt response can save a life.
Ask about sucicide: If you notice warning signs of suicide, take them seriously and ASK. Research tells us that asking does NOT increase someone’s risk, in fact, asking directly about suicide reduces stigma and feels relieving for someone having suicidal thoughts.
Keep them safe: Reducing access to highly lethal items(firearms/weapons, medication, drugs/alcohol) or placesis an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
Be there: Create a safe space with your presence and listen carefully to what the person is thinking and feeling. Acknowledge feelings without judgment and try to understand underlying emotional struggles. Research tells us that acknowledging suicide can decrease suicidal thoughts.
Stay connected: Make space and time for ongoing conversations after an emotional crisis. It can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person through phone calls or in person visits.
Help them connect: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts — do something right away. In addition to the crisis and support lines listed above, call The Center for Mental Health’s 24/7 Support Line at 970.252.6220. To reach the Colorado Crisis Services Line call 844.493.8255 or text TALK to 38255.
The Center operates a Crisis Walk-in Center open all day, 365 days of the year. The Crisis Walk-in Center is located at 300 N. Cascade Ave. in Montrose.
We believe, and the evidence shows, that suicide is preventable. You can make a difference in the lives of your family, friends, and community members. Take the steps today to save a life — ask, listen, connect, and learn how to help.
Nya Greenstone is a school-based mental health specialist for The Center for Mental Health.