Suicide prevention: We all have a role

Dear Editor,

As a psychologist working in the field of suicide prevention for military veterans, I’ve known too many incredible people who’ve lost their lives to suicide. In recognition of National Suicide Prevention Week, I’d like to share some information with you.

We don’t talk a lot about this issue, but it is nothing short of a crisis in Kansas. Our state’s suicide rate has spiked by a staggering 45 percent since 1999 – the fifth highest increase of all states, and almost double the national average.

Many of us have had a passing thought of suicide, but fewer of us act on it. When we’re connected to reality, we understand that suicide always hurts the ones we love most. But when a person loses that connection in the depths of depression or begins to feel like a burden, it can be incredibly dangerous.

It can be confusing to know what we should to do help, but one of the first things we must do is erase the stigma of talking about mental health conditions and suicidal ideation. Here are a couple small changes we can all make to help.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of suicide and to then follow-up with people who are struggling. Asking them specifically, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” will give your loved one permission to talk about the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings they’ve experienced and make a plan for recovery.

Words matter. Rather than using the phrase “commit suicide,” talk about it as you would any other tragic illness that ends a life, such as “died by suicide.” It’s a small step that can help lessen the isolation felt by surviving family members and friends.

If we start treating mental health conditions with the same openness, practicality, and compassion that we use to address physical conditions, we can prevent more deaths by suicide.

We all have a role to play in suicide prevention in our communities, workplaces, and families. It starts with all of us.

If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, or if you just need someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1). And make sure to let the people in your life know that you care.

Thank you,
Stephanie Davis

Submitted by Paul Davis for Kansas campaign. This is not a paid political ad.

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