The year 2020 has brought a unique set of unprecedented challenges that only heighten our need to acknowledge Suicide Prevention Awareness month. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to individuals with or without previous behavioral health issues experiencing anxiety, depression, and intense worry for the future. There is fear of contagion and inadvertently getting family or other household members sick, potentially leading to death. Social distancing, quarantines, and financial uncertainty can further deplete our hope and our emotional immune systems.
How can we fortify our emotional immune systems? Social distancing does not have to replicate social isolation. Find ways to stay connected to family and friends. Engage in activities that bring you joy and strength. Practice self-care routines that help alleviate stress and improve your overall well-being. When we care for ourselves we have the ability to encourage friends and family to do the same. The act of care and human kindness can be the difference in someone’s life, especially if they are contemplating suicide.
How does COVID-19 and the subsequent consequences relate to suicide? Suicide rates historically escalate following natural disasters or during pandemics due to the profound psychological and social impacts. With this forewarning it becomes critical to learn more about preventing suicide. Suicide remains the 11th leading cause of death in Connecticut, equivalent to one person dying by suicide every 21 hours. It is the second leading cause of death for 10-34 year olds.
We all can take action to prevent suicide. If you are worried about someone, please let them know you care. Ask them directly if they are considering suicide. What do you do if someone answers yes? If they say yes, help them get to a professional and save a life! With education and awareness anyone can learn to recognize potential warning signs and assist someone to get the help they need. Someone contemplating suicide can be relieved when someone shows interest and support for their well-being. It is a myth that asking about suicide will give someone the idea and put them more at risk.
Most survivors of suicide attempts report they did not wish to die, but were attempting to escape what they believed to be indelible emotional and/or physical pain or a profound loss of hope for the future. There has been a stigma associated with reaching out for help or revealing thoughts or plans for suicide that we must continue to challenge in order to save lives. One way to overcome barriers is to have a community that believes suicide is preventable and be willing to ask the question.
QPR, nationally-recognized suicide prevention training is offered through many community agencies or you can take an online class. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255) offers 24 hour support. Their website offers chat options at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org . The Crisis Text Line offers 24 hour support via texting to 741741. You can also find support by calling 911 or by going to your nearest emergency room.
Rebecca Colasanto, LCSW, is the system director of behavioral health for Bristol Health.