It can affect every one of us.
So it’s time we talk about it.
Thoughts of taking one’s life can fester like a sore. Never-ending feelings of fear, frustration and failure. A glitch in the brain. It feels like nothing matters anymore.
Suicide seems like the only solution. The only way out.
One in 100 deaths worldwide is by suicide. That’s more deaths than malaria, HIV and breast cancer. Right now, someone you know might be thinking about ending their life.
Perhaps you can help them.
To coincide with National Suicide Prevention Month, we want to remove the stigma of suicide for good. We can all do that by talking about it.
Here’s how to help someone who may be suicidal.
Asking someone if they are considering suicide is an incredibly difficult proposition, but starting a conversation about this topic shows you care about that person.
How do you start the dialogue?
With a simple question:
“Are you thinking about suicide?”
That question, says National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, shows you’re open to talking about suicide in a supportive and non-judgemental way:
“Asking in this direct, unbiased manner, can open the door for effective dialogue about their emotional pain.”
Other questions you can ask?
- “How do you hurt?”
- “How can I help?”
However you phrase the question, just make sure you ask it.
There are many red flags of suicide, and recognizing these signs could save someone’s life.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) says most people who contemplate suicide display one or more warning signs, “either through what they say or what they do.”
Here’s what to look out for:
- Someone might talk about killing themselves, having no reason to live, feeling hopeless, feeling trapped, being a burden to others, or experiencing pain.
- Behavioral changes in that person, such as aggression, fatigue, withdrawal from social activities, or increased alcohol or drug usage.
- Changes in that person’s mood, such as increased anxiety, irritability, agitation, anger, shame, humiliation, or a loss of interest in social activities.
“While there is no single cause for suicide, there are risk factors and warning signs which may increase the likelihood of an attempt,” says the AFSP.
It’s been a stressful 18 months for many people. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout have contributed to an ongoing mental health crisis — one that could take years to resolve.
Many of us in the film industry have suffered job losses or a reduction in pay and experienced mental health issues as a result. These suicide risk factors are becoming increasingly common in our industry, and we need to recognize them.
Perhaps you know someone at work struggling right now. Reach out to them. Ask how they feel. If they work in theatrical exhibition or distribution, point them to Will Rogers, which offers supportive counseling. Look out for the warning signs and risk factors listed above before it’s too late.
“If your colleague has attempted to or indicates that they are about to harm themselves intentionally, remove access to means and do not leave them alone,” says the World Health Organization (WHO). “Seek immediate support from staff health services, if available, or health services outside of the organization.”
“Social connectedness” — a concept that emphasizes the importance of social relationships and networks — could prevent suicide, according to the Education Development Center (EDC). So pick up the phone, type out an email, or send a text message to a friend, neighbor, or family member and tell them they are not alone.
“Think of those who may be isolated, and make an extra effort to reach out to them,” says Kerri Nickerson from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) at EDC. “With social distancing, this can take the form of a FaceTime or Zoom video call, an old-fashioned phone call, a ‘checking-in’ email, or even a friendly card in the mail to say, ‘Hello!'”
Read more: Confronting the Mental Health Stigma
Reaching out shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Regularly checking in on loved ones and neighbors shows you care. So stay connected.
“Follow up to see how they’re doing,” says the American Psychiatric Association.
Staying connected might mean:
- Attending a virtual class or event with someone.
- Playing an online game with that person.
- Starting a book club.
- Watching a movie together.
- Creating a Spotify playlist.
- Sending someone a gift in the mail.
- Recording a video for someone to watch later.
We all need to talk about suicide more. Not just this National Suicide Prevention Month but throughout the year. You have the power to help someone in pain by starting a conversation, recognizing the warning signs, understanding the risk factors, checking in on loved ones, and staying connected.