Last month we reviewed the latest data on youth suicides, which show suicide as a growing cause of death for Kentucky youth ages 10-14. As we reflect on Mental Health Month we want to provide suicide prevention resources all of us can use throughout the year to stop these tragic deaths.
Every single one of us need to know the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and how to tell the difference between normal adolescent development and symptoms of mental illness. It is important to understand that the presence of a risk factor does not predict a suicide attempt, but most people who die by suicide exhibit at least one warning sign.
It is also important to know how to react and communicate with someone who reveals to you, or is exhibiting, suicidal thoughts or behaviors. An effective approach includes:
- Talking openly and honestly about suicide;
- Letting them know they can trust and confide in you;
- Remaining calm and empathetic;
- Adopting a non-judgmental attitude;
- Using active listening skills;
- Reassuring them that recovery is possible;
- Encouraging them to lean on you for support and asking how you can help; and
- Providing resources for them to get help.
Other important actions to take include:
- Making sure the suicidal person is not left alone;
- Removing firearms, knives and other sharp objects that could be used to harm one’s self; and
- Removing alcohol and drugs, including prescribed medicine that could be used to overdose.
Call 911 immediately if you think the person is in imminent danger of hurting themselves or someone else. For other scenarios, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is a great resource for both those who are feeling suicidal as well as those concerned about them. They have trained counselors available 24/7 to speak with either you or your loved one.
A comprehensive list of suicide prevention resources can be found here and includes resources specifically for youth and their parents. We also recommend checking out the You Are Not Alone videos produced by KET.