Suicide Prevention Day—What You Can Do

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. It falls within Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides many helpful resources—to help yourself, support others, promote best practices, and advance better public health policies. Check out AFSP’s #KeepGoing page to see what you personally can do to prevent suicide.

If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

The Sophie Fund is dedicated to preventing suicide in the greater Ithaca community. Our nonprofit organization is named for Sophie Hack MacLeod, a Cornell University student who died by suicide in Ithaca in March 2016. Working with partners, we work to promote mental health awareness and advocate for specific best practices such as the Zero Suicide Model in the Ithaca community as well as on the local college campuses.

In 2017, The Sophie Fund led the adoption of the Watershed Declaration in which 18 community mental health stakeholders pledged to intensify efforts toward saving lives and bringing hope to those struggling with suicide thoughts or affected by suicide loss. The Sophie Fund is a founding member of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition. In 2018, the Tompkins County Legislature called on local healthcare and behavioral healthcare providers to follow the Zero Suicide Model’s systematic clinical approach to preventing suicide.

Please contact us at thesophiefund2016@gmail.com for questions about our mission or to partner in our efforts.

Know the Suicide Warning Signs

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Take the moment to review the warning signs for suicide, as provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Be sure to get help for yourself or others if you see the signs. You may save a life.

If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

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Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.

Warning sign: Talk

If a person talks about:

Killing themselves

Feeling hopeless

Having no reason to live

Being a burden to others

Feeling trapped

Unbearable pain

Warning sign: Behavior

Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

Increased use of alcohol or drugs

Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods

Withdrawing from activities

Isolating from family and friends

Sleeping too much or too little

Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

Giving away prized possessions

Aggression

Fatigue

Warning sign: Mood

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

Depression

Anxiety

Loss of interest

Irritability

Humiliation/Shame

Agitation/Anger

Relief/Sudden Improvement

For Students, Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resources

Students, is Covid-19 getting you down? Your friends have the blues? If you are concerned about your own mental health or the well-being of others, resources are available on the website of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York State (SPCNY).

 

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The center urges students to take care of themselves and to be alert to classmates who may be struggling.

“You usually know what is happening before the adults in your school,” says SPCNY. “You have your ear to the ground, you catch rumors, gossip, the buzz on social medial, and you are usually the first ones to know if a peer is in trouble.

“A lot of kids struggle with feeling down or sad that they sometimes are unable to participate in normal activities. Some kids feel so bad that they think about suicide or even make suicide attempts. Some kids actually take their own lives.”

SPCNY notes that young people might be the first to see WARNING SIGNS that indicate that somebody they know may be thinking about suicide.

Click here for a fact sheet to learn more about the warning signs and how to respond to them.

“It is important to take your observations seriously,” SPCNY says. “Do not ignore them or assume your friend is just being dramatic. If you notice any of these warning signs, tell an adult. What you see may be a signal that your friend is thinking about suicide, and that is not something you can deal with on your own.

“If your friend or someone you know makes a direct suicide threat, IMMEDIATELY tell a trusted adult. They might include someone from school like a teacher or a coach, or someone from your church, temple, neighborhood, or family. Whoever that person is, share your concerns and let them take action. If you have immediate concerns about your friend’s safety, before you speak with a trusted adult, call 911!”

What do you do if you are having thoughts about suicide?

“First, know that it is really brave to recognize that you are having suicidal thoughts. Next, do the same thing you would do for your friend—tell a trusted adult. Just as you can’t help your friend by yourself, you need to ask for help too.

“There are lots of resources and skilled professionals who can help figure out why you feel that your life may not be worth living. They will also be able to help you stop feeling that way. Suicide is not just a reaction to stress—something more serious is going on and it is important to get help as soon as you can!

“If you are unsure of what to do, you can call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “GOT5” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. You do not have to identify yourself if you would rather stay anonymous. Someone who has special training in helping people who have questions or concerns will be available to speak or text with you.”

Other SPCNY-recommended resources for students:

What Every Student Needs to Know: The Warning Signs of Suicide Risk

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline youth page

The Trevor Project is a resource for LGBTQ teens

JED Foundation

Suicide Awareness Voices for Education (SAVE)

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

Celebrating John R. Lewis, Suicide Prevention Champion

While we all celebrate the great contributions to America by civil rights leader John R. Lewis, the suicide prevention community remembers him also as the first person in our House of Representatives to publicly step into the fearsome and taboo subject of suicide and call on this country to recognize that the prevention of death by suicide is a “national priority.”

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John R. Lewis, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial, August 24, 2013

Congressman Lewis of Georgia, who died last week at age 80, was the first in the House to speak out and speak up. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada introduced a similar resolution in the Senate at nearly the same time in the same year. Reid had lost his father to suicide and chose to speak openly about his loss to the world.

Motivating John Lewis were Elsie and Jerry Weyrauch, who had lost their daughter to suicide—a promising young doctor. John Lewis was their congressman. He took their cause to Congress and sparked the fire that led to national action—or, in his words, some “necessary trouble.”

Thus, three loss survivors (Elsie, Jerry, and Harry), together with John Lewis, launched those key “first movements” that began only in 1997.  These bold actions not only broke through the barriers of shame and stigma, they fueled the first ever national movement to prevent suicide.

House Resolution 212 of the 105th Congress, introduced by Lewis with 92 co-sponsors on July 31, 1997 and adopted by the House, declared that “the House of Representatives recognizes suicide as a national problem and declares suicide prevention a national priority, acknowledges that no single prevention program will be appropriate for all populations or communities, and encourages certain initiatives, including the development (and the promotion of accessibility and affordability) of mental health services to enable all persons at risk for suicide to obtain services without fear of stigma.”

HR 212 and Reid’s resolution in the Senate were followed by the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Reno in 1998, viewed by many as the founding event of the modern suicide prevention movement.

Margret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” These brave few prove her case.

We may be running a little low on heroes just now, but we in suicide prevention will always have our John R. Lewis.

—By Paul Quinnett

Paul Quinnett is founder and CEO of the QPR Institute and author of Suicide: The Forever Decision