When high-profile individuals die by suicide, the news can feel jarring. It’s difficult, even painful, to learn that people who touched the lives of so many others may have suffered behind closed doors. For many of us, it can be difficult to read about or talk about suicide at all. But talking about it is important — it can even save lives.
How to get help if you are thinking about suicide:
If you’re in immediate danger of acting on suicidal ideation, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital waiting room.
There are a number of free, confidential hotlines that you can call if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts. Here are some of the free hotlines that are recommended by the website Speaking of Suicide.
In the US, there’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and offers services in Spanish as well as English.
Trans Lifeline is a crisis hotline for transgender people, and its volunteers and staff identify as trans. Here’s the number for residents of the US: (877) 565-8860. For residents of Canada, the number is: (877) 330-6366
You can also text HOME to the number741-741 to be put in touch with a trained counselor within minutes via the Crisis Text Line.
International hotlines can be found on this list put together by the International Association for Suicide Prevention.
How to help someone who is thinking of suicide:
Suicide prevention organization #BeThe1To outlines five action steps for how to talk to someone who might be suicidal:
1. Ask the person if they’re thinking about suicide and how you can help. Listen to their reasons and do not lecture them about why they should stay alive. Studies show that talking about suicidal ideation may actually reduce the rate of suicide. But remember: Do NOT promise to keep their thoughts a secret.
2. Keep them safe by reducing their access to means of self-injury, like firearms. If it’s necessary to drive them to an emergency department or call the authorities to intervene, then do that.
3. Be there for them, either by being physically present, checking in by phone, or some other way that shows support — but make sure you’re able to follow through on what you promise or plan.
4. Help them connect with outside supports like the suicide prevention hotlines listed above and/or community resources like a mental health professional.
5. Follow up with them to show you care and are there to support them. Even acts as simple as checking in by text have been shown to reduce the number of deaths by suicide.
Finally, it’s important to remember that everybody is different. Suicidal ideation may be the result of any combination of factors. According to a statement from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, these include underlying mental health condition, life stressors, and access to lethal means.
“We must do more to prevent such tragic deaths through greater awareness of mental health, common risks and warning signs, and effective interventions and treatments,” the AFSP statement goes on to read.
Awareness begins with us.
(Photo via Getty Images)