Hope in the Darkness – Suicide Prevention

Worried a loved one is showing signs of a mental health crisis and contemplating suicide? Feel compelled to ask but not sure how? Beginning that conversation can be intimidating, but you can help. We all can play a role in preventing a suicide by learning how to recognize the signs and how to respond to them.

Often, suicide is tied to feelings of loss and pain. There are a number of warning signs a person may display when contemplating suicide. These signs could include isolation, increased substance abuse or statements about not wanting to live or being a burden. Ben Yamnitz, director of community recovery services, Memorial Behavioral Health–Springfield Crisis and Residential Center, provides insight on how to start the conversation.

Questions that Show You Care

  • The best way is to approach the conversation with care and concern:
    “I care a great deal for you and have noticed some things lately that have me a little concerned.”
  • Simply state what you know regarding their circumstances:
    “I know that you recently broke up with your girlfriend and have been isolating yourself.”
  • Normalize that sometimes people going through that experience are thinking of suicide:
    “Sometimes when people have a loss like that and start isolating, they are also thinking of suicide.”
  • Finally, ask the question. This allows the individual to acknowledge their feelings and may help them feel that they are not alone:
    “Have you been thinking of suicide?”

Understanding the words and actions of someone considering suicide can save their life. As difficult as it may be for you to have this conversation, listen without judgment.

“If they are at immediate risk, call 911 or go to your local emergency room for an assessment by a mental health professional,” Yamnitz said. “If there is not an immediate risk, encourage the individual to seek professional services at the local mental health center. Further, share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 800-273-TALK (8255), and encourage the individual to call if they ever think of acting on their thoughts of suicide.”

Resources

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-TALK (8255), is available 24/7, is free and confidential and provides support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved one.
  • Memorial Behavioral Health offers an anonymous, free mental health self-assessment. You’ll receive immediate, customized feedback as well as the opportunity to schedule an appointment for further evaluation if necessary.
  • Mental Health First Aid training teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders in your community. Participants are taught how to apply a five-step action plan in a variety of situations including engaging with someone who may be suicidal.
Ben Yamnitz, MSW, LCSW, earned a bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Evansville, a master’s in Social Work from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign and has worked with adults with mental health issues for more than 14 years. He is the director of community recovery services for Memorial Behavioral Health, an affiliate of Memorial Health System, and one of the largest providers of behavioral health services in central Illinois. Community recovery services encompasses a number of programs for adults including residential based programs such as Supervised Residential, Crisis Residential and the Conditional Community Release Program. Community based programs include Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness, Individual Placement and Support and the Community Support Team. The Crisis Residential Center is also a local call center for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.