September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time set aside to reduce stigma around the topic, share resources and raise awareness about actions we can all take to prevent suicide.
While addressing suicide prevention year-round remains important, you and your community can commemorate National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month by learning about more about suicide: its warning signs, how to support those at risk for suicide and how you can care for suicide loss survivors – friends and family members affected by the suicide loss of a loved one.
We hope you find this resource helpful. Feel free to share this newsletter, as well as the bulletin insert and worship slide (below), with your faith community.
#BeThe1To campaign is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s message for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and beyond, which helps spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide.
Faith Communities: a Natural Setting for Suicide Prevention
Faith communities are a natural setting for suicide prevention. Spiritual beliefs and practices tend to help people experience greater hope and meaning in their lives. Faith communities can also provide opportunities for developing positive relationships with others and can be an important source of support during difficult times.
Why Address Suicide Prevention
Counseling related to suicide fits with the general role of faith community leaders.
According to the CDC, suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone. Comments or thoughts about suicide — also known as suicidal ideation — can begin small like, “I wish I wasn’t here” or “Nothing matters.” But over time, they can become more explicit and dangerous.
Other warning signs of suicide include:
Increased alcohol and drug use
Withdrawal from friends, family and community
Dramatic mood swings
Impulsive or reckless behavior
Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:
Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
Giving away possessions
Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
When a suicide-related crisis occurs, friends and family are often caught off-guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do. The behaviors of a person experiencing a crisis can be unpredictable, changing dramatically without warning.
There are a few ways to approach a suicide-crisis:
Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
Express support and concern
Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace
Like any other health emergency, it’s important to address a mental health crisis like suicide quickly and effectively. Unlike other health emergencies, mental health crises don’t have instructions or resources on how to help or what to expect (like the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR).
By: Jennifer Benson, coordinator of public affairs for Advocate Aurora Health.
With teens currently stressed about how school will go in the fall and removed from their social circles, this can be a trying time at home navigating change in schedule and being near family for long durations, especially, at an age they are growing in independence.
This can cause more feelings of isolation, feeling misunderstood and cause additional stress on teens with existing mental health concerns. Parents need to be aware of how their teen is managing and how to help, especially if their teen is a suicide survivor.
Community Spotlight: Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide
The LOSS (Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide) Program is a support group for those who are grieving a death by suicide of a family member or close friend. The LOSS Program is a non-denominational program offered by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago in collaboration with the Diocese of Joliet.
The program was founded in 1979 when there was an even greater stigma attached to suicide, one that sometimes prevented survivors from accessing the resources they needed during the grieving process.
Since then, not only has LOSS served thousands of individuals and families, but its activities have helped to raise awareness, and in turn, reduce the stigma associated with losing a loved one through suicide.
In the first few years after my son Noah’s suicide, I clung desperately to every memory, every possible explanation, every offer of support or comfort from friends or strangers. I couldn’t let go of the living Noah and my living love for him, even though I knew he was gone, and our connection would have to change. And I couldn’t shake my sense of guilt for not being able to save him. Letting go of these things felt like abandoning my child.
Being told to “let go” while grieving a suicide sounds like the common wisdom to “get over it” or “be strong” so we can “move on.” Many of us need to sit with our grief for a long time. Some survivors wait months or years before they’re ready to sort through their loved one’s belongings or clear out their room or apartment. Some cling to anger at God or doctors or relatives who they blame for the suicide. While a small number of survivors may get stuck in extreme forms of unhealthy grief, most of us should not be hurried or pushed. It’s when we allow ourselves to fully express, explore, and process our grief, experts say, that we become open to post-traumatic growth.
Eighteen years ago, I attempted suicide. I know just mentioning the word makes people uncomfortable. I get it, but I’m hopeful that by not being afraid to post about it the stigma can be reduced. I want to offer a ray of hope to anyone who may be in a dark place.
It was my first year of marriage and my first year of teaching and the expectations I placed on myself to excel at both were unrealistic, so in my mind I was failing. I had committed to teaching for four years to pay off a scholarship and felt like I was trapped. I sank further into depression and hopelessness. I knew things weren’t right and wanted to go to counseling, but just continued keep waking up each day in despair. Finally—in an attempt to change my situation—I took a bottle of pills. I immediately regretted my choice. I’m not certain I ever really wanted to die, I just wanted the pain to stop. I woke my husband up and he rushed me to the hospital to have my stomach pumped.
Advocate Family Care Network: provides a range of confidential behavioral health services for individuals, children, adults, couples, families and employers. Services include childhood trauma treatment program, counseling and therapy services, workshops and more.
#BeThe1To campaign materials. #BeThe1To is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s message for National Suicide Prevention Month and beyond, which helps spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide.