End the stigma: speak out, get help

Seminar explains how to help those with suicidal tendencies

LEWISTOWN – Area residents and employees met Tuesday morning at the Juniata Valley Behavioral and Developmental Services building to learn about suicide and how to prevent it.

The seminar was led by Heather Moran, regional director of PeerStar, LLC, and Stephanie Fry, of the Meadows. QPR Institute designed the material for the presentation.

Suicide prevention centers around three actions: question, persuade and refer. These actions are the foundation of the QPR movement.

Moran explained that the goal of QPR training is to prepare individuals to be able to offer those with suicidal tendencies hope through positivity and reassurance.

“Even if you barely know someone, you can still pull out the positive,” Moran said. “Sometimes it’s the little things that can keep people alive.”

Fry presented statistics showing an estimated 25 suicide attempts per one documented death by suicide.

“From a crisis team perspective, the numbers of attempted suicides are very high,” Fry said. “A lot are attempting suicide who may eventually die of suicide.”

Fry stressed that any suicide attempt should be taken seriously, and that it is not “attention-seeking behavior.”

In fact, suicide itself and attempted suicide impact more than one person. A study from the University of Kentucky discovered more than 100 people are affected in some way by each death by suicide.

Moran gave examples of indicators for someone who is considering suicide. These include:

Saying “I wish I were dead,” or “I’m going to end it all;”

Saying “I’m tired of my life; I just can’t go on,” or “I just want out;”

Co-occurring depression, moodiness and hopelessness;

Sudden interest or disinterest in religion;

Drug or alcohol abuse;

Being fired or expelled from school;

Loss of any major relationship;

Fear of becoming a burden to others.

“If you’re thinking that maybe you should ask someone if they are considering suicide, just ask,” Moran said. “You can’t do any harm by asking.”

Moran said the best way to ask a person if he or she is considering suicide is conversationally, leaving plenty of time for the person to talk, if necessary.

Examples of ways to ask of suicidal thoughts are, “Have you been unhappy lately?,” “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?” and “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

If a person suspected of suicidal tendencies does not give a clear answer, Moran explained that it is fine to rephrase the question and ask the person again during a conversation.

“The way you ask is less important than that you asked, it,” Moran said. “If you can’t bring yourself to ask the question, find someone who can.”

Moran warned of a few ways to not ask if a person is suicidal, as they may appear judgmental: “You’re not thinking of killing yourself, are you?” and “You wouldn’t do anything stupid, would you?”

After receiving an affirmative response to a person being suicidal, the suicidal individual may need both persuasion to remain alive and assistance in finding proper help.

Fry said the best way to start this process is by listening to the suicidal person with full attention.

“Deeply listen to what they have to say and listen to their problems,” she said. “Acknowledge their feelings and let them know you are there for them. Keep engaging the person and help them look for reasons to stay alive.”

Once the suicidal person has decided to not end his or her life immediately, Fry recommended referring them to a suitable resource that will guide them through their rough time.

“Don’t just leave them in that situation,” Fry said. “Offer to make the call to the crisis line, then sit with them while they are on the call. Accompany them to the hospital, or to another place where they can get help.”

If timing is an issue and the suicidal person must be left alone, Fry recommended saying, “I’m not sure what to say, but can you hang in there until I can get you help?”

Providing a suicidal person with resource options can also be life-saving. After finishing a conversation with a suicidal person and giving them resources, Fry suggested to follow up with the person the next day.

“People who wish to commit suicide don’t wish for help,” Fry said. “Fear of hospitalization should not be a reason to not call the crisis line. Only up to 35 percent of crisis calls result in being hospitalized.”

Moran explained how the 24/7 crisis line would react to a situation.

“Say someone called and they had already taken pills,” she said. “Crisis would have the person go to the emergency room, and then they would meet with the person in the emergency room to talk about what resources are available for the person to get help.”

Essentially, the crisis line provides referrals for each individual. The next day, a team member follows up with the individual to see if he or she was able to use the resources.

For effective suicide prevention, get other people involved.

“Try to figure out who this person’s tribe would be,” Fry said. “It could be pastors, priests, family, friends, physicians, etc.”

Another recommendation is to tell the suicidal person, “I want you to live,” or “I’m on your side and we will get through this.”

The final thought QPR wants communities to know is “When you apply QPR, you plant the seeds of hope. Hope helps prevent suicide.”

See the accompanying information box for suicide prevention resources.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Juniata Valley Crisis Line: 1-800-929-9583

Text messaging: Text “PA” or “Home” to 741-741

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-784-2433

For veterans: 1-855-838-8255

For teens: Call (310) 855-HOPE or (800) TLC-TEEN 3 p.m. – 7 p.m.; Text “TEEN” to 839-863 from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.; email through the teenlineonline.org website; download the Teen Talk App, available on iPhone; visit the Teen Line message board on teenlineonline.org

For LGBTQ youth: Call 1-866-488-7386, instant message online through thetrevorproject.org, or text “START” to 678-678

On Facebook: Worrisome status updates by friends can be reported and addressed through Facebook options

Inspirational story: suicidetherippleeffect.com