Reaching out to prevent suicide

Suicide is a difficult topic. People tend to keep their thoughts about suicide to themselves, which can increase the feeling of being alone in the world. In my experience as a counselor working with children and adults over the past 20 years, I would say that the average person has thought about NOT wanting to be alive at least once in their life. When asked directly, most people will admit that life can be so challenging at times that they want to escape. Most people do not go to the next step in contemplating a plan to kill themselves. It is often surprising to realize that people who appear to be happy and well-adjusted can be thinking about suicide. Men tend to complete suicide more than women by 3.57 percent, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The good news is that just by sharing these scary thoughts, the chances that someone will attempt suicide reduces drastically. Talking to someone who is trustworthy and compassionate is often all that is needed to ease that horrible dead-end feeling. We all want to feel hopeful that problems will resolve, and things will feel better. Most importantly, we want to feel safe and loved unconditionally. Often trauma plays a role in contributing to feeling out of control or lacking the confidence to move forward in life. The average person in the United States has been traumatized at some level due to societal problems. Trauma creates a feeling of lack of internal safety that is so important in resolving problems.

So how do you respond when someone tells you they want to die because their problems are so big? It is important to listen and provide support. Try to find out the seriousness of their suicidal thoughts. If the person has a plan for killing him- or herself, it is important to take immediate action in getting them to a professional. The emergency room at the hospital is set up to evaluate people at risk of harming themselves. Other steps can be taken, including contacting one of multiple counseling services available in our area.There are free suicide hotlines, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 that is available 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Professionals from a variety of disciplines have formed the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition with groups in Malone and in Saranac Lake. We are working to provide education to the community about how to respond to people struggling with suicidal thoughts. We would like to reach out to people in all areas of the community so that everyone becomes part of the solution in preventing suicide. Whenever someone dies by suicide, the entire community is heavily impacted. Let’s join together in supporting one another.

If you are interested in participating in the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition, please contact Community Services at 518-891-2280.

Rivka Cilley lives near Saranac Inn and is a licensed clinical social worker.

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