A Watchful Eye: Paying Attention for Suicide Prevention

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time when we focus on knowing the warning signs of suicide and the factors that can put someone at risk. However, the need to look out for these red flags isn’t limited to a single month of the year. And, in this season of ongoing isolation, being proactive about suicide prevention is especially important.

A Season of Increased Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a June 2020 survey revealed that 11 percent of adults in the United States had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days—over twice the percentage who had considered it during the same time period the previous year. In addition, 40 percent of survey participants reported experiencing at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, putting them at greater risk for suicidal ideation.

However, while living with a mental illness increases the likelihood that a person will have suicidal thoughts, it’s important to keep in mind that anyone can be impacted by suicide. Thus, regularly checking in with loved ones—including those we think are doing well—is vital to saving lives.

By being watchful, it’s often possible to spot indicators that a friend or family member is struggling so that we can come alongside them with support and encourage them to seek help. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), most people who die by suicide display one or more warning signs before attempting to end their lives. The behaviors below can all be red flags that someone may be struggling with suicidal thoughts.

  • Talking about ending one’s life, having no reason to live, feeling trapped or being a burden to others
  • Expressing feelings of unbearable pain or hopelessness
  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Researching methods for suicide
  • Withdrawing from activities or from family and friends
  • Sleeping much more or less than usual
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones
  • Giving away treasured possessions
  • Aggression, agitation, irritability or anger
  • Fatigue
  • Depression or loss of interest
  • A sense of humiliation or shame
  • A sense of relief or sudden improvement

If you notice any of these signs in someone you love, it’s important to pay attention, start a conversation and come alongside them in seeking help.

Keep handy the local suicide crisis hotline number: 214-828-1000. You can also text “CONNECT” to 741741 anytime to reach trained, caring volunteers at the National Crisis Text Line.

The Role of Community

Community plays a powerful role in preventing suicide in numerous ways, not the least of which is providing an environment in which warning signs like those mentioned above can be spotted and caring people can come alongside the one who is struggling. At The Well, when a member is feeling distressed or facing a particularly pressing challenge, friends who understand offer support and encouragement, and staff assist that member in navigating the hurdles they are facing and accessing needed care.

In addition to providing a safety net of support in times of struggle, community can prevent suicidal ideation. By warding off isolation and providing opportunities for meaningful interaction, The Well Community helps its members stay mentally stable and fosters the hope that is a protective factor against suicide.

Especially in this time of social distancing, isolation multiplies the challenges of mental illnesses and increases the risk of suicide. The connections members are able to make at The Well as they pick up lunches and interact with each other and with staff members provide lifelines of community in a season of added struggles. Through your generosity, they can continue to find help, hope and a place to belong.

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