In the wake of celebrity suicides, vulnerable people may be at higher risk, and we can all help
When a celebrity dies by suicide, people who are already contemplating suicide or are vulnerable to major depression can be at a higher risk for ending their lives. In recent days, the world learned of at least two celebrity deaths, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. The Lorain County Board of Mental Health (LCBMH) has issued these guidelines that any resident can use to support friends, loved ones, colleagues, and even strangers who might be at risk:
- Reach out. Make a call, send a text, or write a letter to someone in your life about whom you are concerned. You can simply say, “Hello. I was thinking of you, and I hope you are well.” People who are depressed often think no one cares about them, or that everyone would be better off without them. Help them feel connected, and reduce their feeling of social isolation. Social and emotional isolation is a suicide risk factor for every age.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. If a person is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it is OK to ask them directly: “Are you thinking about killing yourself? Are you thinking about suicide?” Say what you have observed about their changes in behavior or mood, and express concern. Asking if someone is thinking of suicide will not plant the idea — they are either thinking about ending their life, or they are not — but it may open an opportunity to save someone you love.
- Have the Crisis Text Line number, 741741, in your phone, and everyone’s phone. At your next family gathering, outing with friends, or staff meeting at work, ask everyone to take out their cell phones and enter the Crisis Text Line number, 741741, into their contacts list. This is a free, confidential resource that anyone in the United States can use to connect to a counselor who can provide advice and resources for anyone in distress, or anyone who has questions about how to help someone else.
- Learn how to intervene with confidence. LCBMH offers free trainings that help people identify signs of mental health concerns, and know what to say and how to help. The training page at lcbmh.evenbrite.com lists ongoing opportunities to take Mental Health First Aid or A-S-I-S-T courses. Also, you can request a free 90-minute “basics” presentation on suicide prevention for your community by sending a request to [email protected].
- Be there. If you think someone might be considering suicide, do not leave them alone. Though people think about suicide for a long time, they can act on those thoughts quickly and impulsively. Ask a family member to help you make the home as safe as possible, temporarily removing medications or firearms, or other means a person might use to harm or kill themselves in an impulsive moment of distress. Then stay with the person in distress, and listen compassionately and non-judgmentally to their pain.
- Provide hope. A celebrity death, in particular, can leave people feeling hopeless. They think that if a person with adoring fans, financial resources, and fame can take their own life, then what hope is there for someone who has none of those things? The truth is that depression can affect any brain, but if a person receives the help they need, they probably will never be suicidal again. Encourage hopefulness by providing examples of when that person overcame something that they thought was impossible at the time. Engage that person in an act of kindness for others, which both builds their social connectedness and helps positively change their thoughts. Find a support group or community that you can participate in together.
- Share local resources, but realize that you might have to do more if someone is struggling. Urge someone who is thinking of suicide to connect to resources like the 24/7 crisis hotline at 1-800-888-6161. Sometimes, though, a suicidal person believes they cannot be helped, and will not reach out on their own. They need you to help them make that call.
- Connect to grief or support resources for yourself. If you have lost someone to suicide, or if you are the sole support for someone who is struggling, take care of yourself. You can call the Navigator line to connect to non-emergency mental health services: 440-240-7025.
Suicide can be preventable, but it is very hard to predict. LCBMH urges everyone to take every sign of depression or suicide seriously. Learn the signs of suicide by reading through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s list of risk factors and warning signs at afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs, and keep these local resources with you:
Lorain County 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 1-800-888-6161
Non-emergency Navigator (regular business hours): 440-240-7025
Crisis Text Line: text 4hope to 741741 (also available on Facebook)
Requests for training and education on suicide prevention: [email protected]
More information: lcbmh.org