Organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the 15th World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10, 2017. This year’s theme is: “Take a minute, change a life.”
“As members of communities, it is our responsibility to look out for those who may be struggling, check in with them, and encourage them to tell their story in their own way and at their own pace,” IASP states.
On average, 121 people die by suicide daily in the U.S. – and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that number is even higher.
Read on for tips from experts on how to help loved ones – including adolescents – who deal with suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Shari Sinwelski, the associate project director for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, encouraged people to really listen if a loved one expresses thoughts of suicide.
While sometimes people can brush off comments from others about wanting to die as just being “dramatic,” people should really view it as a “cry for help,” she said.
“It’s a cry for help so that means we should take it seriously,” Sinwelski told Fox News. “Sometimes people dismiss that as ‘they’re not serious, they’re just looking for attention,’ but that’s actually one of the warning signs you need to take very seriously.”
One of the “biggest” ways people can help those who are struggling with suicide is to seek professional help, Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms, said.
“You want that person to get the help they need and deserve,” Tworkowski told Fox News, equating seeking professional help for mental health to going to a mechanic when a car’s check engine light comes on. “If you’re struggling with mental health – to the point you’re thinking about suicide – it’s so important you connect and get whatever help you need.”
“We would encourage people to take it seriously, to take those words seriously, and do everything you can to keep that person safe and stable in the moment,” he added. “But with that, to get professional help right away.”
To find a good therapist, Tworkowski said he hoped people would be “willing to ask around” for recommendations or read online reviews.
And for parents of minors who struggle with suicide, Sinwelski suggested parents be cognizant of how they present the idea of therapy to a child.
“Therapy for a young person, it has to be something that is presented to them in a way that it’s for them,” she said. “It needs to be presented in a way that’s … not because you’re in trouble or something is wrong with you. This is just a way for you to learn how to feel better.”
Honesty and compassion
Tworkowski said he has a friend who is a mental health professional who always encourages people “to balance honesty with compassion.”
“I think it’s easy to err on one side or the other,” Tworkowski said. “Compassion means that our friends and family need to know that we care for them and will continue to be there for them, but honesty means that we’re willing to ask the hard questions and we’re willing to follow up and tell them the truth even if it makes for an uncomfortable conversation or not something they want to hear.”
Sinwelski, too, encouraged people to be “direct” with loved ones and ask point-blank if suicide is something one is considering.
“First and foremost, you naming it and saying you’re not afraid to talk about it can be a release to someone who was trying to get help this whole time, but no one was really hearing it,” she said. “So asking directly is really important.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is manned by counselors around the clock and Sinwelski encouraged anyone who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts to call. But she also suggested the lifeline as a resource for those who are worried about loved ones.
“They can call the lifeline and talk with a counselor on the line who can help them sort out the situation and talk to them about their own feelings about it and guide them through the process,” she said.
Sinwelski also encouraged people to check out the #BeThe1To campaign for additional tips.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).