Suicide Prevention Month: How 11 minutes can save a life

The average person can read about 200 to 300 words per minute. This article is about 1,350 words, which means it will take you about five and a half minutes to read. If you read it twice (just to make sure you don’t miss anything), that’s 11 minutes. Not much, in the grand scheme of things – but when it’s the difference between saving a life, those 11 minutes mean everything.

September is Suicide Prevention Month, which kind of resonated in my mind for most of my Septembers – until this year, when one evening I found myself opening up Google and searching frantically “what to do when your best friend tells you she’s considering suicide. My friend survived that night, but there are tens of thousands of people in America each year who don’t. According to the CDC , in 2020, 45,979 people in the United States died by suicide, or one person every 11 minutes.

Every 11 minutes – this is the statistic that stuck out to me during my panicked night on Google. I started wondering what the statistics would say if everyone could take just 11 minutes to learn about suicide prevention. So here’s a compilation of everything I’ve learned this month, in hopes that the next time someone comes to a friend’s house in need, no minutes will be wasted on Google.

Minute 1: Know the facts.

The CDC reports that suicide is among the 9 leading causes of death among people aged 10 to 64 in the United States. About 46,000 Americans died by suicide in 2020, and millions more seriously considered, planned, or attempted suicide. Suicide also disproportionately affects men, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, members of rural communities, and tribal people. In short, suicide is a very real problem, and it’s likely to affect someone you know and love.

Minute 2: Recognize the warning signs.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some warning signs that a person is considering suicide include withdrawing from friends and family, giving away important possessions, taking dangerous risks, extreme mood swings, changes in eating or sleeping habits and/or increased consumption. drugs or alcohol. The Mayo Clinic reports that other signs may be talking about suicide, worrying about death, saying goodbye, or finding ways to end your life. If you recognize any of these signs in a loved one, it is important to check and assess whether they may be in danger. If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, don’t be afraid to tell someone or call a suicide hotline (in the US the number is 988).

Minute 3: Have the conversation.

When discussing suicide or self-harm with a loved one you are concerned about, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you be sensitive but direct. Start by telling your loved one that you care about them and are worried about them. Some questions you might ask are, “Have you ever thought about hurting yourself? “Have you ever thought or attempted suicide? “Have you thought about getting help from a medical professional?” Remember, asking directly about self-harm or suicide and not putting a taboo on the subject, you allow your loved one to express their true thoughts and feelings without censorship. You don’t “give them ideas” – you just create a safe space for them to be honest.

Minute 4: Don’t judge.

If you’ve never suffered from depression or thoughts of harming or killing yourself, it can be difficult to understand why someone might want to harm themselves. It is essential not to judge someone for feeling this – these thoughts are beyond their control. The Mayo Clinic states that staying supportive and non-judgmental is key to continuing to be someone your loved one feels safe to open up to.

Minute 5: Get help if your loved one is in immediate danger.

If your loved one tells you that they have tried or are considering suicide, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if your loved one asks you not to tell anyone, if their life is in danger, it is essential to act quickly. The Mayo Clinic encourages making sure your loved one isn’t left alone — call 911 or take them to the hospital if they’ve been harmed. If they haven’t hurt themselves but you think they might, it may be necessary to tell a family member or close friend to keep an eye out for them if you are not able. to do it yourself. Encourage your loved one to call a suicide hotline if they are considering acting on their harmful thoughts.

Minute 6: Seek treatment for your loved one.

If the person is not in immediate danger but still has severe depression or thoughts of suicide, the Mayo Clinic suggests telling them to seek professional help and offering to help them take steps to get a treatment. This may include researching possible treatment options such as a doctor or mental health care provider, support group, crisis center, or faith community. This may also include making phone calls or accompanying them on appointments. The Mayo Clinic offers an important reminder that you can offer support and guidance, but you cannot fulfill the role of a mental health provider.

Minute 7: Remember that progress is not linear.

Your loved one will not be “cured” immediately, even if they start therapy or start taking antidepressants. They will have good days and bad days, and the road to recovery is not easy. Keep supporting them no matter where they are on their journey, and remember not to be judgmental or blame them for their feelings.

Minute 8: Advocacy for societal change.

You can do a lot for someone on an individual level, but the CDC reminds us that preventing suicide also requires changes in the structures of our society. CDC’s Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policies, Programs, and Practices outlines the steps for this type of social change, including strengthening economic supports, increasing access to and delivery of suicide-related care, creating protective environments, promoting connectedness, teaching coping and problem solving. skills, identify and support those at risk, and reduce harm and prevent future risk.

Minute 9: Raise awareness.

Honestly, I was unaware of the massive impact of suicide until someone close to me was affected. It is extremely important to tell your family, friends and peers why suicide is a problem and to promote suicide prevention education. Spreading awareness also de-stigmatizes the conversation about suicide – the more it is recognized and normalized, the more people will feel comfortable talking and asking for help.

Minute 10: Watch your friends.

You never know who may be suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts. If you notice that a friend or family member seems stressed or doesn’t act like them, check it out. Be a safe means of communication for your loved ones and offer your support when they are going through difficult times.

Minute 11: Check on yourself.

Being a supportive friend can be difficult if you have mental health issues. If you are suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, don’t be afraid to tell a loved one or call a helpline. Trust your friends and family to take care of you the same way you would them, and know that things are getting better. Cliché, I know, but it’s true.

September may be over, but suicide prevention is a topic that matters to millions of Americans every day. Chances are you or someone you love is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts and needs support. In a time when everything is faster and busier, it can be hard to spare five minutes, let alone 11. However, I can guarantee that you will thank yourself later for the minutes you spent educating yourself today. today – minutes that might help you. secure a life with the people you love.