by Jay Valdez, Psy. D.
As a psychologist, I want to bring attention to an important mental health crisis affecting our community: Suicide.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has made September National Suicide Prevention Month.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States with 48,183 Americans committing suicide in 2021. The average amount of suicides committed per day is 132 and men are 4 times more successful in committing suicide than women.
I’m sure that as you’re reading this article, you personally know of someone or an acquaintance who has committed suicide.
We as people cannot turn a blind eye, ignore, or deny that suicide exists and can potentially happen to someone we know.
We have a responsibility to ourselves, family, loved ones, and the community to feel comfortable talking about suicide or asking for help.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a great site to educate yourself on suicide.
They have resources on understanding what suicide is, how to talk about it, how and where to get help, how to be an advocate and help create and pass policies both on a federal and state level and last but not least, how to deal with the loss of losing someone to suicide.
In a nutshell, talking about suicide would be the first step in preventing it. Don’t be afraid to approach someone you’re concerned about and ask them how they’re feeling and if they’re having thoughts of wanting to hurt themselves.
Even if they say they’re feeling fine, clarify and ask them if they’re really feeling fine or are they just saying that they’re fine. Hopefully, they will feel comfortable enough to open up to you.
And yes, it’s a topic that people don’t normally talk or ask about but it’s our duty as family, friends, and citizens. Even if you feel awkward asking them if they feel like hurting themselves, ask anyway to show that you’re concerned.
As you’re reading this, you can think about and rehearse in your mind how you would ask someone you’re concerned about.
For example, you can say “Hey, I feel awkward saying or asking you this but are you having thoughts of hurting yourself?” or “I might be totally off base but I just want to make sure you’re okay but are you having thoughts of hurting yourself?”
Next, listen to them, and allow them to express how they’re feeling and what they’re going through in their lives. Show them you understand by paraphrasing or summarizing what they said.
If you don’t understand what they’re going through, it’s perfectly okay to ask more questions to help you understand their experience. Asking them questions shows them that you really care and want to understand their issue.
Next, connect them to resources such as ASFP (mentioned above) so they can get further help or mention Hawaii CARES Crisis hotline.
Hawaii CARES is a local resource. They can call 988, text 988, or chat 988 for local assistance.
This hotline is not only for people experiencing a mental health crisis but also for people who need advice for dealing with a family, friend, or loved one you’re concerned with.
They’re available 24/7 and are handled by trained mental health professionals. They also can send a mobile crisis team to the individual in crisis.
Other options include calling 911 or going to the emergency room.
The point is if they want help, they will open up to you or use the resource you recommended to them.
by Jay Valdez, Psy. D.