Plumas District Hospital’s Senior Life Solutions program reports that, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there are an average of 132 suicide deaths per day and an estimated 1.70 million suicide attempts in 2021. Each year during September, which is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, Senior Life Solutions staff members join with others across the country to help bring awareness to suicide and encourage education in hopes of preventing suicide.
“Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month is a chance to take time to stop and assess yourself and those around you to ensure those who need help have access to it,” said Dale Morgan, PDH marketing manager. “What do you do if someone you love may be having thoughts of suicide?” Below, Senior Life Solutions shares five evidence-supported action steps to take if someone is in crisis. The steps come from the BeThe1To organization (https://www.bethe1to.com/).
Asking “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates openness to speaking about suicide in a nonjudgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner can open the door for effective dialog about a person’s emotional pain and can allow everyone involved to see what next steps need to be taken.
2: Be there
Being there for someone could mean physically being present, talking on the phone, communicating through video chat, or any other means of showing support. BeThe1To reiterates that it is very important that helpers do not commit to things they are not willing or able to accomplish and ensure that the ways they say they will provide support actually do happen.
3: Keep them safe
If it is determined that a loved one is thinking about suicide, it is important to establish immediate safety. This can be done by asking questions like “Have you tried to do anything to harm yourself?” and “Do you have a specific, detailed plan?” If so, helpers can ask questions to determine the timing and access to the method. Knowing the answers to each of these questions can help determine the level of danger the person is in. For example, the more specific steps they have in place for their plan, the higher their severity of risk is.
4: Help them connect
Helpers can connect loved ones in crisis with the new 988 Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741). They can help the person explore their options by asking questions such as “Have you seen a mental health professional in the past? If so, could you see him/her again?” “What mental health resources are available in your community?” and “Do you have a safety plan in place?”
5: Follow up
After someone has connected a loved one to the immediate support needed, it’s important to follow up to see how he or she is doing, says BeThe1To. Following up allows a person to ask for more help if needed and allows the helper an opportunity to provide any promised support that hasn’t been delivered yet.
BeThe1To reiterates that suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, people can prevent suicides and save lives.
Anyone experiencing an emergency, or witnessing someone experiencing an emergency, is directed to call 911 immediately. Anyone in crisis or experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts may call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Plumas District Hospital’s Senior Life Solutions is a program designed to meet the unique needs of individuals typically 65 and older who are experiencing depression or anxiety related to life changes often associated with aging. For more information, education, or to discuss support, call (530) 283-7131 or visit https://www.pdh.org/services/senior-life-solutions.
Information submitted by Plumas District Hospital