People experiencing a mental health crisis now have a new way to reach out for help in the U.S. Beginning this past July, the federal Department of Health and Human Services released the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, designed to connect people who are suicidal or in any other mental health crisis to a trained mental health professional – no busy signals and no being put on hold.
Suicide is a growing issue in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 45,979 people died by suicide in the U.S. in 2020. That is one death every 11 minutes.
When it comes to suicide, there are no straightforward answers. In fact, most of the time, we never get answers unless the person left behind a note, and even then, we are still often left scratching our heads in disbelief and dismay. That’s why initiatives like National Suicide Prevention Month and the new hotline number are so important. We need to have open conversations about suicide, depression and overall mental health. We need to end the stigma surrounding mental illness or unfortunately, suicide will continue to needlessly end the lives of so many.
The good news is that suicide is preventable if an intervention takes place. The driving force behind a suicide must be properly dealt with before it spirals out of control, whether this is a mental illness, nasty divorce, job loss or anything else.
If you suspect someone might be suicidal, here are some things you can do to help.
Again, help normalize the topic by conversation. Simply asking someone if they are thinking about suicide is a good step. Never promise to keep their suicidal thoughts a secret. Be open and non-judgmental. Encourage immediate professional intervention through the 988 Lifeline. It is available 24-hours a day.
Professional help is essential. Don’t just suggest it because they might be unlikely to follow through. Do it for them. Someone who might be suicidal could be suffering from deep depression, mania and other conditions that sometimes prevent clarity. Do the research and help get them set up with an appointment with a mental health professional like a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed counselor.
If someone in your life is contemplating suicide, constantly remind them that there is hope. There are many successful treatments which can help turn how their feeling around. Life is worth living. Continue to support and communicate with them. You can increase their feelings of connectedness and share your ongoing support. There is evidence that even a simple form of reaching out, like sending a card or email, can potentially reduce their risk for suicide. Remember, loneliness is a major cause of depression.
This National Suicide Prevention Month, let’s put an end to this horrific epidemic once and for all. The more we continue the conversation and bring attention to it, the more people we will reach and save.