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Suicide: The Silent Fight

Challenging Our Assumptions and Supporting our Neighbor

Suicide. The word itself can be a trigger for someone to read or hear. In 2021, our society has hotlines, counselors and resource packets yet there is more required to breaking the stigma of this taboo subject. As a community, we can start by opening up the art of neighborly communication. It’s time to step up and start talking: it may just safe a life. After all, the most powerful intervention is friendship. What can you do to support your neighbor, friend, co-worker and family? What can you do to help your fellow human, even if you don’t know them by name? As a community, we can fight this battle of suicide with love, understanding and respectful assistance.

Love Your Neighbor

Listening is Loving. Our world is busy and loud. At times we have all fallen prey to distractions from social media, work, television, or our own busy lifestyles. When someone is struggling, they may reach out to you in an unexpected way. Learn the signs of suicide and listen with an open heart. It may not come as a loud clap of thunder would, the signs may be small but that doesn’t mean they are any less telling. Someone who is considering suicide may say things that indicate their suffering will be over soon, offer meaningful gifts to others, give away their belongings, experience extreme mood swings, express helpless or hopeless feelings, stop participating in activities they previously enjoyed or may lack in self-care. There are many more signs that are not mentioned here. If you feel concerned for someone and are not sure how to support them you can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Show Understanding. The person struggling may not have had an opportunity to share their story. Listen to them, without trying to solve their problems. Then support them however they may need in the moment. Maybe they need a number to call, a prayer, a hug, or a safe person to talk to until help arrives.

Respectful Assistance. Many people avoid asking directly if the person they are talking to is considering suicide. Asking this is very important–it could save the life of the person you’re speaking to. If you feel that someone is struggling, take a moment (and a deep breath for yourself), then without avoidance, anger or fear you can simply ask the person. They may be grateful that you did and respond honestly. This gives you an opportunity to reach out to local supports with them. They may not be aware of all that they have available for resources. Keep in mind as a neighbor, you have emergency resources like 911 or going to your nearest emergency room if they express they have an active plan to end their life and the means to do so. Remember to keep yourself safe as well.

Learn. Education on suicide is vital for every one of us to have, no matter the role we play in the community. Mother, dog walker, house cleaner, teacher, accountant, retired professional–there are no requirements for who is qualified to hear someone’s story and respond with love, understanding and respectful assistance. There are many ways to get further education on the topic of suicide. You can look online at websites such as suicidepreventionlifeline.org or get more information from local resources like the Mental Health Association. There are also other independent trainings that you can take to become a mental health first aid responder and get step-by-step guidance on what to do if you are ever in a situation where someone has expressed their consideration of suicide. Livingworks.net has trainings like this available for community members to take.

We wish you and your family wellness and support. Not feeling like yourself, going through a hard time or need someone to hear your story? Contact Brook Lane to set up an intake appointment today at 301-733-0331 and have someone hear your story. Together, we can challenge the stigma of suicide and start the conversation.

Shannon Snowman, LGPC is a licensed graduate professional counselor providing therapy at Brook Lane’s Frederick Outpatient office. She is in the process of completing the requirements to become a licensed clinical professional counselor and a certified Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (TF-CBT) with a focus on working with individuals from three to 18 years old. In addition, Shannon is a provisional Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) trainer and provides suicide first aide education for community members.