World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10

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The simple act of asking someone if they’re okay; showing care and concern for someone who may be vulnerable to suicide can be a game-changer. The power of a caring conversation will be one of several messages that Some Other Solutions – SOS – will continue to share as it marks World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2015.
To help spread that message of conversation and awareness, SOS hosted an information booth at the Urban Market at the Jubilee Centre on September 9.

“We’re also doing a promotion in the schools,” says Janene Hickman, SOS support and wellness counselor. “We’re asking students to wear yellow on September 10.”

Part of the conversation is debunking prevalent myths that perpetuate about suicide. Talking about suicide will not put the idea into someone’s head, corrects Hickman.

“Showing genuine concern and asking somebody directly about suicide, let’s them know that you’re paying attention, you care about them… you’re letting the person know it’s okay,” she said.

“And when reaching out, make sure there is time for that conversation; don’t ask, while rushing out the door. Suicides don’t increase in winter or around holidays. Suicide actually increases in the spring.”

While research is looking into learning more about the elusive reasoning, one thought is that spring is a time of new life and new beginnings, and anyone who has been struggling and thinking about suicide, is unable to bear the thought of such newness.

Also, with warmer weather and increased daylight, it’s easier to get out and about, perhaps allowing people to act out those thoughts. Suicide is not cowardly.

“It’s not about moral weakness. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a crime. It’s just this is the only way they think they can ease their pain,” explains Hickman.

“It’s not so much an event as a trigger so to speak, but how a person reactions to it. Take a filling cup,” she offered.

“You can put rocks in the cup and sand and water, and the cup seems full right from the beginning, but at some point, if you keep adding and adding, the cup flows over.”

She says that is similar to a person’s ability to bear varying and multiple challenges; at what point does a person become overwhelmed?

Then there is the sense of guilt felt by family and friends who have lost someone to suicide. Actions, such as, giving away personal items are blatant sign, there are subtle signals that are also telling.

“When people are thinking about suicide, they’re often giving us signals. We don’t recognize them at the time, but looking back we often do so that where guilt comes in.”

“When people are thinking about suicide, they’re often giving us signals. We don’t recognize them at the time, but looking back we often do so that where guilt comes in.”

Subtle changes such as a person withdrawing or isolating themselves, no longer caring about their appearance or school or work, a general feeling they’re not engaged, consistent expressions of helplessness or hopelessness, an increase in substance use or a new use substances and reckless behaviour.

“If you can identify what you’ve noticed, that will let them know you care. It gives them something to work with rather than an open-ended questions, which can be overwhelming and scary.”

Hickman also advocates a return to what she terms “old-fashioned.”

“We need to get back to those basic face-to-face communication skills in life,” she said. “Those face-to-face conversations that we used to have and really need to have just don’t happen.”

She points out a common theme emerges when talking about lives lost: There was a change in the person, but those near them and were uncertain how to engage them in conversation. People worry about saying the wrong thing; of making an assumption and getting somebody upset.

“I’m encouraging people to say whatever they have to. It’s about saving lives. We’d rather a person be offended and alive. We’d rather a person laugh at you and say: ‘Oh my God. Are you crazy? I would never do that.’ That’s the best answer we can ever get.”

If kids, for example, shrug it off, be persistent in a caring, non-threatening way.

Hickman is an advocate of family game nights, unplugging regularly including no cell phones at meal times and actually sitting having those face-to-face conversations with people.

“It’s getting back to the basics.”

If anyone has questions, has lost someone to suicide or is worried about someone, contact SOS, 780-743-8605.
Anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the 24-hour crisis prevention line, 780-743-4357.

“We have a crisis line of trained volunteers. We have staff that are tremendously trained in all of those areas,” she said. “If we don’t know the answer, we’ll help you find the answer.”