You may have noticed recent hashtags: #SuicidePreventionMonth, #SPM23, #BeThe1To, or #TalkAwaytheDark. It’s September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month, and we just entered Suicide Prevention Week on September 10.
I’m inviting everyone in the Easing Anxiety community and beyond to be aware of signs of people struggling with thoughts of ending their lives — often expressing feelings of being trapped or being a burden.
There are times when I have been concerned about this with people in the benzodiazepine community. I’ve been on Facebook support groups or on-line Zoom calls and heard people talking about their hopelessness during benzodiazepine tapering or dealing with BIND. I have reached out through direct messages, but then I wondered what exactly should I do.
I’m here to say that not only is it fair to worry about someone who may want to end their life, but to talk to them.
What I want to say is straightforward:
Suicide is preventable. If you are worried about someone, it is OK to talk to them directly. It is that care and connection that creates hope.
At a minimum, I would urge you or them to call 988 or text 741741 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
The Prevalence of Suicide and Warning Signs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention know the numbers. Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes (1). The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2021, an estimated 12.3 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.7 million attempted suicide (2).
The Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) describes the suicide warning signs for adults as follows:
Talking about or making plans for suicide
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
Talking about being a burden to others
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
Sleeping too little or too much
Withdrawing or feeling isolated
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Displaying extreme mood swings
The risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased, and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
Action Steps You Can Take
There are concrete action steps you can take if you believe someone may be in danger of suicide:
Call 911, if danger for self-harm seems imminent.
Call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to talk to a caring professional.
Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. This will not put the idea into their head or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.
Listen without judging and show you care.
Stay with the person or make sure the person is in a private, secure place with another caring person until you can get further help.
Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
NAMI Provides Guidance
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) gives important guidance. Here's what they have to say:
Let the person know they can talk with you:
If someone is struggling with suicidal ideation day-to-day, let them know you will listen to what they’re going through.
NAMI advises against “arguing” or trying to disprove any negative statements they make (“Your life isn’t that bad!”), but suggest active listening techniques such as reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts.
Let them know that mental health professionals are trained to help people understand their feelings.
While some people may worry about reaching out to a mental health professional, encouraging them to get this kind of support is key.
One of the most important directions that NAMI provides is that...
Suicidal thoughts are a symptom, just like any other — they can be treated, and they can improve over time.
NAMI tells us that comments or thoughts about suicide, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin small — for example, “I wish I wasn’t here” or “nothing matters.” But over time, they can become more explicit and dangerous.
Like any other health emergency, it’s important to address a mental health crisis like suicide quickly and effectively. Unlike other health emergencies, mental health crises don’t have instructions or resources on how to help or what to expect (like the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR).
That’s why NAMI created Navigating a Mental Health Crisis: A NAMI Resource Guide for Those Experiencing a Mental Health Emergency, so people experiencing mental health emergencies and their loved ones can have the answers and information they need when they need it.
Talking Can Help Heal
While there may be fear of bringing up the topic, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) “Talk Away the Dark Campaign" reminds us:
We might worry that saying the wrong thing will make it worse. So, we end up not saying anything – even though a few kind words can make the difference in connecting someone to help or supporting someone who experienced a suicide loss. — American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
AFSP provides great resources:
Conversation Starters: https://talkawaythedark.afsp.org/#starters
Real Conversation Guides: https://talkawaythedark.afsp.org/#convos
Real Stories: https://talkawaythedark.afsp.org/#convos
I want to end with my appreciation for anxiety and benzodiazepine focused support groups and forums. Certainly, they are also a place where some members express a loss of hope. They are also the place, though, where community members express concern and care, and where others gain hope and perspective.
View Easing Anxiety's Resources Page for a list of resource groups and organizations.
More Information If You are Concerned about Someone Who is Suicidal
"BE THE ONE TO"
...shows how 5 steps can help someone who is suicidal.
As always, please let us know what you think about this topic.
Suicide Prevention Resources
988: Suicide and Crisis Lifeline - https://988lifeline.org
Easing Anxiety Suicide Prevention Resources - https://easinganxiety.com/resources#suicide
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: (https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/index.html)
National Alliance for Mental Illness - https://www.nami.org
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - https://www.samhsa.gov
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Mortality 2018-2021 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released in 2023. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 2018-2021, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed Jan 11, 2023. http://wonder.cdc.gov/mcd-icd10-expanded.html.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2022). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP22-07-01-005, NSDUH Series H-57). Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2021-nsduh-annual-national-report.
For Informational Purposes Only
All information presented on Easing Anxiety is for informational purposes only, and should never be considered medical or health advice. Withdrawal, tapering, or any change in dosage of benzodiazepines or any other prescription drugs should only be done under the direct supervision of a licensed physician. This article was written by a living, breathing human. Please read our site disclaimer for more information.