Community Awareness Rallying to End Suicide

August 11, 2017

It is generally understood that suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are often preceded by mental health challenges. The Jesse Klump Suicide Awareness & Prevention Program supports the fact that if someone with a mental illness can be treated early, the likelihood of a completed suicide is greatly reduced. Toward that end, we teach Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid in partnership with the Worcester County Health Department.

But not everyone can take one or both of those one-day workshops. A new resource offers tips on navigating conversations about mental health with friends or family members. The Face the Issue campaign provides information on the signs that a loved one might be struggling, and guidance on starting a dialogue about it. Changes in a loved one's behavior can indicate that they are having a hard time, according to campaign advisor Peter Whybrow, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Bio-behavioral Sciences at UCLA.

Experts agree that it is best to take an open-ended, non-judgmental approach to conversations about mental health issues, and to show empathy for the person in distress. "If you know a person reasonably well, the first step is really to listen to them and then to try to put yourself in their place," Whybrow said. Any conflicts that arise in the course of the conversation should be met with concern and compassion rather than combative responses. Whybrow recommended offering to help the person find solutions and encouraging them to access professional help. Those at risk of suicide may be in need of more immediate assistance, such as helping them contact a crisis hotline or taking them to the local emergency department.

The Face the Issue website is outstanding. Here’s how to get there:

Above all, if someone you know has a history of mental illness, know that this increases the odds that the might make an attempt on their own life and be aware of the warning signs. Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be afraid to be direct and persistent. If the answer to “Hey, you haven’t seemed like yourself for a while, what’s wrong?” is “Nothing,” point out the reasons why you think as you do. What’s the worst that can happen? You’re wrong and your friend is angry with you for asking? Isn’t that better than getting a phone call after your friend’s successful suicide?