Pam Dudding Contributing writer
Sometimes the cry for “help” cannot be heard by anyone else but the person who suffers on the inside, yet that cry seems to burst their own eardrums at times. For some, suicide seems to be the only way “free” of this pain.
Sadly, it has been documented that suicide has escalated during the Covid Pandemic in America as well as other countries. People who had no or little drive for life, who had to stay at home, became hopeless and without personal contact with others, gave up.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for the age range of young women in the residential program for Mercy Ministries, ages thirteen to 32. Other facilities state similar statistics.
Even the surveys which are conducted anonymously at Craig County Public Schools has shown an increase in suicide thoughts as well as attempts in some of our youth.
Sheila Lythgoe, a Prevention and Wellness Specialist at Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare explained, “Suicide is a complex health issue and there is no single cause. It most often occurs when several stressors and mental/physical health issues create an experience of hopelessness and despair.”
Many counselors echo the fact that some people who die by suicide do have a mental health condition that may or may not have been recognized, as some people hide their pain and hurt.
Lythgoe added, “That does not mean that everyone that has a mental health condition becomes suicidal or dies by suicide. For a suicidal person, the emotional pain, physical pain, or both can be unbearable. Once they reach that crisis point it impacts their thinking and suicide may be seen as the only way out. Many factors such as health, historical, and environmental can increase the risk for suicide.”
It’s shared by professionals that it is often difficult to detect a suicidal person, because so many people deal with the inner pains in various ways.
Mercy states, “Warning signs aren’t always obvious, and they may vary from person to person. Some people make their intentions clear, while others keep suicidal thoughts and feelings secret.”
Mercy Ministries lists some signs, symptoms or thoughts:
- Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Acquiring the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
- Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
For those who may be a parent, mentor, pastor, or friend of someone having difficulties with a life-controlling issue and are uncertain of how to best offer support, it is important to understand that destructive behaviors are often an outward expression of an inward hurt, which can stem from a variety of root issues.
Mercy shares a fact that many need to remember, “We want to remind you that it is not your role to be Savior or Holy Spirit in your loved one’s life. You are to bring truth, love, and support.”
Watching your loved one go through stages of difficulties is sometimes as demanding on them as it is on the one suffering from the inner pain.
“However, any type of support can assist in fostering healing and help to those who are hurting,” Mercy noted.
An important factor that all counselors share is that family and/or friends are of utmost importance in that person’s life during the struggle. Openness brings healing. Speaking the truth brings light to their situation and helps that person to step out of their “closet” of shame, hurt, confusion, loss, etc.
Mercy believes that, as a caring parent or friend, “your first step must be to pray and seek God for wisdom in supporting your child or friend. While many circumstances are out of your control, prayer and guidance are within your control. Supportive confrontation, without judgment, is the best way to foster positive change in your child’s life; he/she needs to know that you love them regardless of their behavior.”
Always use compassion and open communication.
- Provide a foundation of love and open communication, to help your loved one develop confidence and an understanding of how to have healthy relationships with others
- Communicate your love and/or care by identifying and relaying hope. You can do this by recognizing your child/friend/loved one’s strengths and talents and take time to encourage them in those areas
- Provide verbal encouragement along with helping facilitate their seeking spiritual growth in God. When the focus is on a person’s strengths, positive attitudes and behaviors will result and will be a foundational support for the healing God has for them
- Be aware that messages about weaknesses and inadequacies could be continually running through your child/friend/ loved one’s mind like a broken record. He/she may think or feel that they do not measure up to other’s expectations
- Be attentive, as sometimes we are tempted to play peacekeeper, but when everyone avoids confrontation this prevents the issue from ever being addressed and eventually resolved. Avoiding issues will not bring peace; facing issues head-on with a peaceful disposition is what brings about lasting peace
- Supportively confronting your loved one about their behavior relays the message that you care enough to help them
- Encourage your child/friend/loved one to take control of important aspects of his/her life and to make their own decisions when appropriate. Do not be afraid to provide appropriate limits; being too restrictive or too permissive can both have a negative effect
- Show your child/friend/loved one how to successfully resolve conflict. • Be aware of media messages regarding your loved one’s struggles and be open to healthy discussions about these.
- Be an active listener. It entails giving the other person your full attention when they are communicating, rather than thinking ahead to what you will say next.
- Be aware of common communication blockers: interrupting, ignoring, sarcasm, name-calling, insulting, judging, blaming, and stating your opinion as fact. Open communication lowers the chance of anxious or negative feelings being expressed or repressed in negative ways.
- Allow others to help you as you support the one you love. The tumultuous emotions you may have supporting someone who is having a difficult time are not uncommon
- Resist the temptation to blame yourself for your child/friend/loved one’s struggles. Getting stuck in the trap of self-blame will not help your loved one find healing. Understand that there is a difference between taking an objective look at unhealthy patterns and placing blame on yourself/your family
Lythgoe shared, “Taking care of our mental and physical health is paramount in helping us be well. Reaching out to others when we are struggling and asking for help is important. Most people are ambivalent about taking their own life. Helping them feel supported and keeping them safe during critical times can make a difference.”
“Trust your gut!” she added, ”If you are concerned about someone, reach out and check on them. Talk with them about what you are concerned about. Don’t be afraid to ask the direct question- are you thinking about killing yourself? Listen to them and encourage them to seek help.”
Lythgoe also suggests that everyone should have these resources in their phones: Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK and the Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741
You are invited to follow Suicide Prevention Council of Roanoke Valley on Face Book and Instagram and to contact Lythgoe at [email protected] for more information about available trainings and resources.