Warning signs of suicide, resources available and a four step process for managing through a mental health incident
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — a time to share resources in an effort to shed light on this highly stigmatized topic, but also to make everyone aware of what to look out for as suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition.
According to the CDC, suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999 and nearly 45,000 individuals died by suicide in 2016. Additionally, 45% of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition.
Warning Signs of Suicide:
- Substance abuse
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from or saying goodbye to friends, family and community
- Mood and weight changes
- Reckless behavior
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911
- If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1–800–273-TALK (8255)
- If you or someone you know needs help understanding their feelings and improving mental wellness and resiliency, reach out to a licensed mental health professional in your area.
Spring Health’s four step process for managing through a mental health incident:
- Be open and use reflective listening. It is important to be open to that individual and their needs. Remind the person that you are here to provide support in the best way you can. Use reflective listening or a listening strategy in which you repeat or reframe the person’s idea to confirm that you hear and understand. For example, saying “It sounds like…”, “What I hear you saying…”.
- Show empathy. Focus on the individual while they are talking (don’t look at your computer or cell phone, for example). Use eye contact and appropriate facial expressions to show them that you are listening. Repeat or restate what the person is saying to show the speaker that you are listening. Validate their feelings by using empathic statements, like “that sounds challenging,” or “I can see that’s hard for you,” and refrain from making judgements, or statements with implicit judgements like “how can you be depressed, you just got that raise?
- Ask questions. You may feel uncomfortable asking someone about their symptoms, thoughts, feelings and experiences, but frequently people who are experiencing problems appreciate the opportunity to talk. Again, use reflective listening, be open to what they say, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Additionally, be prepared that someone could be in crisis-and may be experiencing severe symptoms, or may say that want to hurt or kill themselves or someone else.
- Treat as a health and safety issue. In a crisis situation, it’s important to treat mental health issues the same way you would a health issue. If someone fell and possibly broke their leg, you would send them to the hospital for an evaluation and treatment. In the same way, if someone says I am having problems, I’m in crisis, I need help, or I’m feeling like I want to hurt myself, for example, you would refer them to a mental health clinician to be evaluated and treated. Multiple EAPs offer rapid or same-day phone-or-video-chat based assessment and triage of employees in crisis.