Getting back into a routine, staying atop work, and balancing school along with everything else in life can truly stress one out! The start of the school year brings with it all types of feelings, thoughts, and emotions for everyone. However, this time of year can be especially difficult for those who already struggle with their mental health.
September 5th-11th is National Suicide Prevention week. This annual event, originally created by The American Association of Suicidology, aims to increase awareness among the general public of suicide, the methods of prevention, and the importance of caring for your mental health.
For many, the conversation around suicide can be difficult for multiple reasons; it may be challenging to understand why someone might struggle with thoughts of suicide, or it could simply be an emotional topic. However, it is extremely valuable to destigmatize mental health and promote suicide prevention by having these difficult discussions.
This week is a time to spread awareness, learn how to help those around you who could possibly be struggling, and work to break the stigma surrounding mental health.
Understanding what some of the leading factors that might put someone at a higher risk of suicide, can help us better look out for those who may need it. Some of those leading risk factors include:
- Mental disorders, particularly depression
- Chronic disease or disability
- Knowing a friend or family member who committed suicide
- Substance abuse
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Social isolation
There are also more situations that could put someone at higher risk for suicide such as an unexpected moving of houses, difficult financial situations, past traumatic events, extended bullying, complicated home lives, and many more.
If someone close to you is expressing that they are struggling or going through a lot, take time to talk with them about their mental health in order to ensure their safety.
Opening up the conversation around mental health with someone can seem intimidating, especially if you have not had experience talking about your own emotions and feelings with another person before. Below are some tips for talking to someone who may be struggling with mental health issues:
- First, reassure them that you are a safe person to talk to and that you are here for them.
- Make sure they are comfortable talking to you at that moment.
- Have patience and be understanding if they are not able to open up right away.
- Listen to what they say. Make sure they feel heard.
- Comfort more instead of trying to find a solution right away.
- Be prepared for a variety of emotions, whether it be anger, sadness, fear, or anything else.
- Ask what they need from you. They might need advice, resources, or just someone to vent to.
When discussing mental health with somone, you have to understand the warning signs that they could be struggling with thoughts of suicide. Often, it can be very challenging for someone to come out and openly share their thoughts of suicide, however, they might express:
- Feeling hopeless
- Increased anxiety
- Extreme mood swings
- Feeling like a burden
- Increased anger
- Feeling trapped
When someone expresses that they are experiencing a collection of these signs, it is vital to remind them that they are not alone. People who deal with suicidal thoughts frequently feel isolated by the weight of their sadness. When someone does reach out and expresses their mental health struggles, it is good to help provide resources for help along with coping mechanisms to better handle intense emotions. In my experience, here are some coping mechanisms that I found to be helpful:
- Journaling and gratitude logging. This can help both get emotions out and also get your brain looking for positives.
- Art is a great way to also express things without words.
- Breathing exercises and meditation. Taking a moment to ground yourself in the environment around you can bring down stress and anxiety levels.
- Go outside. Getting some fresh air can greatly improve mood.
- Watch something that makes you laugh.
- Remember that it’s okay to cry.
- Talk to a therapist or licensed professional.
Therapy is a great way to learn to better understand, control, and work through emotions. Taking care of your mental health and seeing a therapist should be as normal as seeing a doctor when you are feeling ill. Unfortunately, for many years there has been a stigma behind going to counseling or therapy, and mental health is not seen as important as physical health—however, this is false and that mindset has to end. Everyone should see a therapist to help their mental health. There’s so much you can gain from being able to talk through challenging or stressful situations with a therapist, and they can provide a fresh and healthy perspective.
Do not be afraid to directly ask if someone is experiencing thoughts of suicide, it can help get someone help and the support they require. Below are some crisis resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
- Depression Hotline 1-630-482-9696
- National Domestic Violence hotline 1-800-799-7233
- National Sexual Assault hotline 1-800-656-4673
- LGBTQ National Help Center 1-800–246-7743
- Crisis TextLine 741-741
If you are struggling with mental health issues and or thoughts of suicide, know that you are not alone and there are so many people around who understand what you are going through and can help. Everything can get better with time.