Written by: John Draper, P.hD.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – an opportunity to be aware of what we can do to prevent the growing number of suicides in this country.
For nearly 20 years, a major part of my job was to promote awareness of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (and now 988) to help prevent suicides nationally. After a few years of doing so and getting more calls, it occurred to me that promoting crisis lines and referring people to mental health care alone was not going to significantly reduce the suicide rates in this country. Even if we could get everyone in a suicidal crisis to call or seek help from a therapist, there would not be enough clinicians to respond.
It’s also important to remember that a friend or a loved one is typically the first person to hear when a person is having thoughts of suicide. For these reasons, it’s essential for everyone to know there are things we can do that make a difference when someone we know feels hopeless, alone, and maybe thinking about suicide.
In 2016, I worked with Lifeline staff to develop and promote a campaign called #BeThe1To. This campaign is based on the basic things we teach every crisis counselor to reduce a person’s suicidality.
These “emotional CPR-like” steps are actions we can all take, as they are meant to help a person feel cared about, listened to, and less alone. These defined five steps include:
- Be there
- Help keep them safe
- Help them connect
Several national suicide prevention organizations have been actively promoting this “help a friend or loved one approach,” and many of these campaigns are outstanding.
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) newly launched Talk Away the Dark
- Active Minds on Campus “Validate, Appreciate and Refer” campaign
One of the most impressive campaigns that I’ve seen promoting how we can help each other in moments of crisis is the “Seize the Awkward” campaign sponsored by AFSP and the JED Foundation, with outstanding Public Service Announcements for broadcast created by the Ad Council.
Other ways to help
There are many ways we can all help prevent suicide, during and well beyond Suicide Prevention Awareness Month:
- Contact a local crisis hotline to volunteer with outreach, give a donation, or even work on the hotline
- Donate to a local or national suicide prevention organization
- Stop, learn, and listen to help someone who is feeling hopeless and alone
- You can call or text the Lifeline at 988 or chat online at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Help is available 24/7, it’s free and confidential