Have you ever noticed a student, a colleague or even a stranger that caught your attention because they looked so sad? You wondered what happened to make them so upset, but figured it was none of your business, so you walked on by. Maybe you wished there was something you could do to help but didn’t feel they would want you to interfere. Ignoring seemed best.
I’ll admit, I’ve done it. That was before. Before I turned into a survivor of suicide loss. Now, I will never just walk by a distressed person again.
After becoming involved in suicide prevention, I learned you might save a life by simply asking the person if they are thinking about suicide. Seems intrusive, even rude or disrespectful, doesn’t it? But it is the right thing to do. By asking a direct question, you are showing the person you care about them. Chances are, they might have been waiting for someone to talk to.
Is it worth the risk to show you care? You decide.Yes, it's okay to show you care. I Did.
I’m a bit of a hermit, and it is difficult for me to walk up to a stranger and ask a question, let alone that question. But I did. A few weeks ago while at a doctor’s office, I saw a young woman in the waiting room. She was visibly distraught, to the point of tears. Before I could talk myself out of it, I walked right up to her and said, “You look really upset. Are you having thoughts about suicide?”
She said. “Yes”. And then she told me why. I listened to her story, gave her the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number: 800-273-8255 (TALK). We talked a about her options, I hugged her and handed her some Kleenex. She said she would call the number. I believed her. She thanked me and we both went our separate ways. I hope she is okay. Although I can’t save every sad person in the world, it feels better knowing I helped at least one.
If you wonder if I made the right choice, take a look at this article by a psychologist trained in suicide prevention: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2019/How-to-Ask-Someone-About-Suicide
If you’re interested in learning more about youth suicide prevention, please read the book I wrote, “A Culture of Caring; A Suicide Prevention Guide for Schools (K-12)”
A Culture of Caring; A Suicide Prevention Guide for Schools (K-12)
As awareness grows about the alarming increase in youth suicide rates, school leaders need information on suicide prevention and postvention. Tragically, the search often begins only after the school community has suffered the loss of a student. Schools must start to be proactive and educate themselves about risk factors and prevention strategies.
A Culture of Caring: A Suicide Prevention Guide for Schools (K-12) was created as a resource for educators who want to know how to get started and what steps to take to create a suicide prevention plan that will work for their schools and districts. It is written from my perspective as a school principal and survivor of suicide loss, not an expert in psychology or counseling. I hope that any teacher, school counselor, psychologist, principal, or district administrator can pick up this book, flip to a chapter, and easily find helpful answers to the questions they are likely to have about what schools can do to prevent suicide.