Author: Rhonda J Souder, Ed.S., NCC, LMHC

Rhonda has been an active, licensed clinician since 1998. She has served clients in various settings, with the last 12 years in private practice. She is a member of the International Society for Neuroregulation and Research (ISNR), the Association of Applied Pyschophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), and the American Counseling Association (ACA).

Helping Others Hold on to Hope

National Suicide Awareness Month

World Suicide Prevention Day – September 10, 2020

My mom told me that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.     The circumstances of our lives change.  And our feelings and perspectives about our circumstances also change.  They are not static.  

An example that I often use with my clients is the following – picture two separate men who have recently been dumped by the loves of their lives.  The circumstances are the same – they are devastated.  The first man jumps off a bridge to his death.  The second man struggles with his pain, writes a poem about the struggle, sells the poem as the lyrics to a country music song, makes five million dollars, finds new purpose and eventually new love.   

But not everyone is able to believe that at the moment of their greatest despair.  

The numbers are astronomical.  According to the World Health Organization, about 800,000 people a year commit suicide, which translates into a death every 40 seconds.   A report by the National Center for Health Statistics reported in April, 2020 that US suicide rates have risen by 35% since 1999.  The CDC reported in June, 2020 that 11% of Americans had considered suicide in the 30 days prior to the survey.  With these kinds of numbers, it seems every person in the US has been or will be impacted in some way by suicide.  This health crisis affects us all.

What can we do?  First look for these signs of trouble in your loved one:  

  • They withdraw from their friends or family.
  • They talk about being a burden.
  • They begin to give away prized possessions.
  • They begin online searches for ways to die.
  • They express hopelessness or having no reasons to live.
  • They talk about feeling trapped.
  • They have just lost an important relationship.
  • They feel a lack of social support.

Once we recognize that our loved one is struggling, asking them directly if they are having suicidal thoughts is a first step.  Some people believe that if my friend is really down and I ask about suicidal thinking, I may be planting the idea in their minds.  This is not the case at all.  We are simply acknowledging the depth of their pain.  Trust me, they’ve already thought about it.  And if they haven’t, they will let you know. Research shows that people who are actually thinking about suicide feel relief when someone asks them in a caring way.

Try saying something like, “You seem to be struggling lately and I care about you.  I know that when people feel this low, they might think about suicide or self harm.  Are you thinking about killing yourself?”  It can show them that you really see them, and they aren’t alone in their pain.  And once you’ve connected, you can remind them that you care by listening without judging, separating them from anything they are thinking of using to hurt themselves, and pointing them to some specific sources of help.

Resource list:

  • 800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  
  • 888-628-9454 – Crisis support in Spanish 
  • 866-488-7386 – Trevor Lifeline (Suicide prevention counseling for LGBTQ  community)  
  • text 741741 – Crisis Text Line – US 
  • https://www.help.befriends.org – Befrienders Worldwide has created a help app that connects a person to the nearest emotional support center.  
  • If you are worried about your loved one, you can ask to take them to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation.  
  • If you are not in the same location as your loved one, you can call the local law enforcement agency to do a wellness check.  They will go to the home and assess the situation and provide help if needed.

Nothing stays the same forever.  We can help each other in the lowest of low places, walking alongside our friends and loved ones until they find their circumstances have changed for the better.  We want to help our friends find much better solutions for their painful but temporary problems. 

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