Suicide Prevention: Connect to Break the Silence
By Technical Writer Uinita Mauigoa
Walking beside family members or friends as they face life’s challenges can make a big difference in their lives. However, helping a loved one get needed support can, at times, feel challenging.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Southcentral Foundation Clinical Director of Outpatient Services Troy Wolcoff said part of suicide prevention is about being able to talk about the topic.
For many, talking about the “S” word does not come naturally. Being open to talk about suicide will ensure your loved one you will be a source of support if times become difficult in the future.
By connecting, being prepared, and knowing when to act, you can make a difference. Having an idea of what to expect will better prepare you to engage in conversations about suicide. Wolcoff shared some things you might encounter as you reach out:
It is okay if you do not know what to say — There may be times when you are unsure of what to say or how to help. Be open and remain connected. Being present with your loved one, and being consistent will help the conversation move forward.
Resistance is natural — It is not uncommon for your loved one to deny or resist help. This can be a natural reaction as the individual might be hesitant to discuss their emotions or accept support from others. Some might feel like a burden or not know what to do. Remaining calm and consistent during the conversation will help the individual feel at ease and feel heard. You can remind your loved one they are not alone, you and others are here to support and connect, and hope is possible.
Respect boundaries — If your loved one does not want to talk, share your hope to rejoin the journey with compassion in the future.
Expect growth and positive shifts — Challenging conversations with loved ones can be difficult. Acknowledge difficulty when it arises by saying things like, “This is a hard conversation for both of us, but I am here because this is important and I am here to support.” Recovery can be the start of an even stronger, healthier relationship.
Understand your loved one may not move as quickly toward support as you would like. Here are some ways to continue to provide support:
Cultivate support systems — Solidify connections with those concerned about your loved one. The better people can communicate information and put it all together, the more supported your loved one will feel.
Explore resources — Many times it is a challenge knowing what to say or do if your loved one refuses to seek help. Consult with a counselor on ways to move forward.
Know when to speak up — You may be asked to keep your loved one’s secrets. If anything shared is beyond your skillset or indicates the person’s life may be in danger, it is time to talk to an expert. Your loved one may be upset, but speaking up could be the difference between life or death.
Leave yourself open — As your loved one continues to process next steps, confirm you will be there before, during, and after.
Learn to listen, share, connect and become part of the solution.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. For more information about behavioral health resources at Southcentral Foundation, connect with your provider, visit SCF’s suicide prevention webpage at https://bit.ly/3TlSHCC.