September is Suicide Prevention Month
September is Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention MonthMy name is Alexia, Psy.D. and I’m Easterseals UCP’s Clinical Director. I’m also a clinical psychologist and provide clinical support to our mental health programs, lead weekly multidisciplinary case consultation, train and provide assessment services to the individuals we support. It’s hard to believe I’ve been with ESUCP for almost 20 years! The work we do can be challenging but I work with a spectacular team who make my job a pleasure. As we recognize Suicide Prevention this month, I’d like to share a bit of information.

The majority of individuals who attempt suicide have a mental health diagnosis, usually depression or bipolar mood disorder, that is oftentimes coupled with anxiety. They may also have a history of previous attempts, a history of being bullied, trauma, or someone close to them has attempted or died by suicide.

Suicide warning signs can include:

  • Talking and writing about death or feeling trapped without a way out
  • Feeling hopeless and withdrawing from family, friends and regular activities
  • Increasing drug and alcohol use
  • Giving away personal possessions and doing dangerous, life threatening things
  • Self-harming regularly
  • Changing mood, eating or sleeping habits
  • Declining performance at school or work
  • Complaining about physical symptoms often related to emotions like headaches or fatigue

The question I get most often from concerned loved ones is “What can I do to prevent a potential suicide”? First, I recommend open communication and learning the warning signs. Support your loved one by listening, acknowledging their feelings and staying connected. Ask if they are thinking of hurting themselves or taking their own life and know that this does not put the idea in their head. In addition, help them get treatment for any mental or substance use issues and eliminate their access to medications and lethal weapons. Staying connected with a caring person or group is also a significant protective factor.

If you’ve done these things and you’re still concerned that someone is in imminent danger of suicide, there are additional actions you can take. If possible, stay with them. Contact professional help or assist them in making the call. If they are unwilling to seek help, call 911. First responders can help facilitate them getting an immediate mental health evaluation.

There are also actions you should avoid when concerned about someone in danger of suicide. Try to avoid offering too much advice or being judgmental. Try to avoid panicking or becoming angry, interrupting with your own stories and telling the person all the things they have to live for.

Easterseals UCP is also here to help. We offer a wide range of support including outpatient therapy, medication management and case management to more intensive services such as Community Support, Assertive Community Treatment, Intensive In-Home Services and Multi-Systemic Therapy. We also offer crisis services such as Mobile Crisis, START, HEART and REACH.

If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide or need to talk, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also text “START” to 741-741 where a live, trained specialist will respond to you. If you are connected to an Easterseals UCP service, please check with your provider to ensure you have our crisis number for your service.

Additional resources include:

If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. It’s important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support yourself.

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