September is suicide prevention month in South Dakota. The South Dakota Department of Social Service is sharing information and resources.
Suicide can touch anyone, anywhere and at any time. My grandfather died by suicide before I was even born. My mother was just 14. It affected her entire life. People didn’t talk about suicide at all in the 1970’s when he died. It was referred to as “the accident.”
We have seen improvements over the years in talking about the stigmas of mental health, but how can we do better? It may be uncomfortable at first, but all of us have the power to save a life. Knowing some signs to watch for and starting the conversation is the first step. You don’t have to know what to say to say something. Here are some pointers to start the conversation.
- JUST ASK. It’s ok to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” There is a common misconception that asking someone if they are suicidal, gives them the idea. Asking in this direct, nonjudgmental manner can open the door for effective conversation.
- KEEP THEM SAFE. If they are thinking about suicide, ask if they’ve thought about how they would do it. Then separate them from the situation or anything they could use to hurt themselves. If you need help, reach out to a trusted adult.
- HELP THEM CONNECT. Rally support. Contact family, friends, teachers, coaches, church members and help them build a network. Share the new three-digit number, 988, to call, text, or chat.
- LISTEN. Do not dismiss or judge. You don’t have to offer advice. Just listen.
- BE THERE. Be there physically or by phone. Don’t commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present, talk with them to develop some idea for others who might be able to help.
- FOLLOW UP. Check in on a regular basis. Continue to show you care. Have a plan in place if you can’t reach them.
By learning these steps, individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to someone who listens without judgment. During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, let’s commit ourselves to starting the conversation to show we care.
If you or someone you know needs resources, it’s now easier than ever. This summer 988 became the national three-digit phone number for all mental health, substance use and suicide crises. It provides rapid access to support through connection with trained crisis counselors. When dialed from a 605-area code, 988 will be routed to the Helpline Center in South Dakota.
- South Dakota Suicide Prevention: https://sdsuicideprevention.org/
- DSS: dss.sd.gov/behavioralhealth/services
- The Helpline Center: https://www.helplinecenter.org/9-8-8/
- BeThe1SD: https://sdsuicideprevention.org/be-the-1-sd/
- Department of Health: https://doh.sd.gov/prevention/Suicide-Prevention.aspx
- South Dakota Treatment Resource Hotline: 1.800.920.4343