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Talking about suicide is crucial - both at the community and individual levels.
By Kellyn Glynn, LPCCoordinator, Health Futures InitiativeSummit County Youth & Family Services
Nationally, September is known as Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. And here in Summit County, this message hits very close to home. The number of deaths caused by suicide in our community each year has been rising, already totaling eight in 2016. This can be a scary topic and one that many of us don’t feel comfortable talking about. However, we do know that talking about suicide is crucial – both at the individual and community levels.
A good place to start this community discussion is by increasing awareness of the signals that someone may need help. There are some key warning signs to be aware of in our friends, family members and acquaintances, including the following: • Expressing hopelessness• Talking about death or expressing a desire to die• Withdrawal from friends and family members• Significant change in mood, behaviors and personality• Increased use of alcohol and other substances• Engaging in more reckless and dangerous behaviors• Giving away material possessions• Abrupt shifts in mood from being hopeless to being peaceful.
If you see these signs in someone you know, initiate a conversation. Asking someone if they are feeling suicidal is the first step to getting help and is often a huge relief to someone who’s struggling. In my field as a professional counselor, I often hear that people are afraid to ask someone if they are suicidal because they fear it will make the person feel suicidal if they weren’t already, make them feel more suicidal or “push them over the edge.”
Actually, the opposite is true. In talking with people about their feelings, you give them clearance that they are being heard and that they aren’t alone. Research and personal accounts tell us that the initial question and resulting conversation bring relief and increase the chances they will get help. Here are a few tips if you notice a person in need:• Let them know you are concerned and that you care.• Ask directly: “Are you feeling suicidal?” “Do you have a plan to hurt yourself?”• Use “we” statements so they know they’re not alone.• Openly listen to what they express and how they’re feeling.• Reflect what they say and validate their feelings.• Talk to them about a safety plan.• Help them find support: Call a crisis line together, accompany them to the ER or mental health center and/or make an appointment with a counselor together.• Stay with the person until further help is in place, or they can make a plan for staying safe.
Personal accounts and reflections from those affected by suicidal feelings have said they feel their situation is a burden to those around them. This can often be what stops a person from reaching out for help from a loved one. That’s what makes it so important to have the conversation and bring the questions out. Let the person know that whatever they can’t handle right now, you can help with. We have a lot of resources in our small county for people who are hurting.
Colorado Crisis Services is a statewide organization that provides services 24/7 to anyone in need of help. Its crisis line is always answered by a trained mental health professional, with translation services available for non-English speakers. If you don’t feel comfortable talking over the phone, you can text the crisis line or chat with a counselor through the website. Colorado Crisis Services has 11 walk-in locations in Colorado, as well as mobile care, meaning it will send a professional to your location for face-to-face counseling. Visit www.coloradocrisisservices.org, call 844-493-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 38255*.
Mind Springs Health is Summit County’s local mental health center, and it also has a 24/7 helpline: 888-207-4004. The office is located in the Summit County Medical Office Building, 360 Peak One Dr., Ste. 110, Frisco. To schedule an appointment with a counselor, call 970-668-3478. Visit www.mindspringshealth.org.
The Summit Community Care Clinic is also housed in the Medical Office Building, in suite 100. The Care Clinic provides in-office, individual and family counseling with licensed mental health professionals; therapists also provide counseling to students in Summit and Lake counties through School Based Health Centers. Visit www.summitclinic.org or call 970-668-4040.
Summit County has a number of private-practice clinicians, most of whom can be found via www.psychologytoday.com. This website allows you to search by name, specialty and location.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 support via its crisis team at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Safe2Tell is a Colorado campaign that allows anonymous reporting of anything that concerns you, your family, your school or your community. The website offers a plethora of resources, including an anonymous tip line, educational outreach, prevention information and training. You can make a confidential report about bullying, drugs, suicide and more through the phone line (877-542-7233), app, or website (www.safe2tell.org).
If you’re reading this column and someone in your life is coming to mind, don’t ignore that knot in your stomach. Make a phone call; extend a helping hand. You can make the difference in that person’s life. If you have had these thoughts yourself, you’re not alone. We are here to help you and want to shoulder your pain with you. Please speak up and call someone today. Summit County’s Healthy Futures Initiative and Suicide Prevention Action Team are dedicated to making Summit County a zero-suicide community. If you’d like to talk with someone about what you can do to help, contact Healthy Futures Initiative Coordinator Kellyn Glynn at 970-668-4035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.