Four Actions for Suicide Prevention

A female teen sits with chin to knees looking solemn. - 6/19/2020

COVID-19 has presented people with the perfect storm: job loss, isolation, illness, death, uncertainty and overall life disruption. It’s too early to know the mental health impact of Coronavirus, but we do know that no one is exempt from the effects of this health crisis, and experiencing a singular life event is stressful, but a combination of several traumas can be devastating.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention shared some ominous statistics from before Coronavirus:

  • On average a Floridian dies by suicide every three hours.  
  • For every one suicide in the nation there are 25 attempts.

We can be part of the solution. There are four actions we can take to help reduce suicidal behaviors of a loved one and possibly save lives during this pandemic.

Action No. 1 – Be well to stay aware. 

As ironic as it may sound, awareness of others begins with self-care. When we eat healthy, get plenty of rest and pray or incorporate a spiritual practice into our lives, we can be more aware of others. Positive well-being opens our minds to see important warning signs that someone may need help. The American Association of Suicidology shared signs of suicidal behaviors:

  • Increased substance use (alcohol or drug)
  • No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes

Action No. 2 – Know and accept the risk factors.

If you have a loved one who previously attempted suicide and received help, a very real risk still exists especially during a crisis. Don’t let the hurtful realization keep you from knowing and accepting the risk factors for suicide as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work or financial)
  • Physical fitness
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts.

Action No. 3 – Know the protective factors.

While no one can ever be blamed for missing the signs, there are precautionary actions we can take to help prevent suicide. Such actions can potentially turn a time of great risk into one of great opportunity if we follow some protective factors. 

  • Access to  care for mental, physical and substance abuse disorders
  • Family and community support (connectedness)
  • Ongoing education from the medical and mental health community
  • Promoting nonviolent ways of handling disputes and conflict resolutions

Action No. 4 – Identify a trusted provider.

The sole focus of a suicide prevention care provider should be the person who is at-risk. All care components should be delivered in a therapeutic way that build trust and support. Compassion should be at the forefront of all interactions. A trusted provider will have the following strategies in place:

  • An established Mission of helping others and a culture defined by values such as compassion, service and integrity
  • Clearly defined responsibilities of all parties involved 
  • Protocols for the transition from inpatient to outpatient care settings
  • Participation by family members and other natural supports
  • A safety plan developed by all parties and ongoing supportive contact

We can all help reduce the stigma associated with suicidal behaviors and mental and substance use disorders. Working together we can survive crises, build safer futures and work to eliminate suicide. 

Resources for Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 24/7 1.800.273.8255

Any crisis – Text GULF to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website

Veterans Crisis Line – 800.273.8255, press 1

Veterans Crisis Text 24/7 confidential support – Send a text message to 838255 

The Trevor Project, Savig Young LGBTQ Lives - 866.488.7386

Lakeview Center 24-hour helpline 850.433.7273

Emergency Dial 911