Suicide Prevention Month reminds us to ask for help
September 7, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- September is Suicide Prevention Month, and I know one of the most difficult things to do is to ask for help. I also know that even if a person will not ask for help, he or she will accept it.
From whom will you accept help? It probably would not be me, because you don't know me. But somewhere in your circle of family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances is someone whose help you will accept.
People have times in their life when they're ready to throw in the towel. This reminds me of a poem by Langston Hughes, where a mother tells her son about the trials and tribulations he may encounter in life.
The mother says, "Keep on movin', reachin', landin' and turnin' corners, often going in the dark where there ain't been no light."
She goes on to tell him that out of everything that comes his way, not to sit and rest because he has work to do.
The simple truth is that people like our mothers and fathers, spouses, best friends, lovers, siblings, etc., are the ones with whom we can really sit down and be ourselves. These are the people who will prevent us from dying by suicide. Thus, those around us must know what to do if we become suicidal.
So, who do we need to train in suicide prevention? Saranson et, al., 1983 created the Social Support Scale by asking three questions:
*Who can you count on to listen to you when you really need to talk?
*Who can you count on to console you when you are very upset?
*Who can you count on to help in a crisis situation even though they would have to go out of their way to do so? These are the people to whom we reach out and connect.
If we have five people within this circle who are trained in suicide prevention, our chances of survival are very much increased. If we have two or three people who are trained, our chances are fair. If we have one person, our chances are limited. And, if no one in our circle is trained, our chances are poor.
We need to create a bubble of safety.
A leading researcher in suicidology, Dr. Paul Quinnett, gives an example of how to create this bubble:
"I need all of you to write a letter. 'Dear (fill in the blank). As you know, I'm serving in the military. Things are great now, but there could come a day when I could use some help. If that day comes, I'd like to count on you and your support. If you're up for this, just let me know and I'll make sure you get some information and training. Thanks.'"
We have to train people to recognize the risk factors, warning signs and suicidal comments. We must respond with quick, bold and positive action.
The warning signs are depression, statements of hopelessness, giving away prized possessions, etc.
There are seven life-saving goals:
*Detection of suicidal persons
*Alleviation of immediate risk factors
*Access to treatment
Another simple truth is that when we solve the problems people that kill themselves to escape, the reasons for suicide disappear. Thus, compassionate crisis intervention, problem resolution and treatment will save lives.
Byron V. Garrett ("The ABC's of Life") wrote: "I don't know your situation or your circumstance, but I do know you didn't come this far to stop. My ultimate goal is to ascend above the clouds, and I truly understand you cannot 'sit' your way into heaven. In fact, you cannot be progressive by sitting your way anywhere. You have to keep on keepin' on, and you may even have to kick some of those negative folks and negative habits to the curb.
"If you truly desire to be highly successful, there will be people and things you'll have to say no to. It doesn't mean you are being condescending or looking down upon people, you simply realize that you are at a different place in life. Only you know what it will take for you to make it -- so you must keep on keepin' on!"