When a rash of public suicides happens, we reach for reasons, answers, things we can do to make it all stop. Something to make sense of the world again.
Of course we do. When someone dies by suicide, we’re left with intense questions: could someone have known? Should someone have known? If there were no indications that things had gotten that bad, how we can tell if OUR friends and family are safe?
I can’t answer all of those questions. They don’t all have answers. I’ll link to several articles and resources on this page to help guide you in your search for information and ideas.
If you’re concerned about a friend or family member, the time to talk about this stuff is now. How you talk about it is important: no one will tell the truth about their innermost feelings and experience if they’ll be met with cheerleading, admonishment, or disbelief. I know that’s hard. Knowing what to say and what not to say – both when you’re concerned for someone, and just in general in the face of grief (without the fear of self-harm) can feel overwhelming.
Remember that your goal here is to have your person feel the love you intend, and to have them stay safe. You’re already doing hard stuff just by being willing to bring up your concerns, so let’s do hard stuff in the right (more effective) direction. Check out the helper tips on this page to get you started, and look at the book, It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief & Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand (specifically the section on how friends & family can help).
When should you get outside help? If you or someone you know is in imminent danger, get help. Resources vary from city to city, so search for resources in your area. Actually, if you or someone you know goes through periods of suicidal ideation, it’s a good idea to call your local resources to find out what they offer BEFORE you need them in an emergency. Some cities have text-based lines, too. If you’re feeling like harming yourself, sometimes texting for help can feel a lot easier than making a phone call.
The National Suicide Prevention line is also a good resource. They have text, chat, and phone based services.
* Keep in mind, support teams, that for communities of color and other marginalized or targeted populations, calling crisis services or the police could be dangerous. *
Here’s an on-going, non-comprehensive list of articles and essays that might help shed light on helping yourself, helping others, how we talk about suicide, access to resources, and a few other things. It’s a big, big topic – and a giant elephant in the room.
Know someone who’s depressed? Don’t try to cheer them up. From the New York Times: What to Do When a Loved One is Severely Depressed
How the media covers celebrity suicides can have life-or-death consequences: It’s important for news outlets to report on these deaths responsibly
On minding our own business: grief in the public eye. HuffPo: Have You Been the News?
The American Society for the Prevention of Suicide has extensive resources (this recommendation came from a mama who is living on after her child’s suicide, and I don’t take that rec lightly.)
Know someone grieving a suicide? Even well-intentioned words can cause pain. From The New York Times: What to Say (and Not to Say) to Someone Grieving a Suicide
Global News Radio host Kelly Cutrara and I on looking for signs in friends & family, and the stark reality that you can’t save everyone. Listen in to this important conversation at this link.
What’s pushing our suicide rates higher? Listen in as host Lars Larson and I discuss the alarming trends.
A couple of good resources and discussions created with my friends at KGW tv: our Portland Today segment and facebook live Q&A session on suicide:
AM/NW host Helen Raptis and I discussed what the rising suicide rate means, and what’s really behind those numbers. Hint: it’s not what you think. Here’s the video:
We’ll keep adding to this resource list as things are suggested or created.