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Reach out, speak up on suicide

These things are always important, but September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time set aside to remember those we’ve lost to self-harm, to think about those among us struggling with depression, to check in on our own emotional well-being and to refresh our box of tools for combating mental illness.

This Suicide Prevention Month is perhaps more important than any in years, as the uncertainty of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has pushed many of us into unknown realms of sadness and anxiety.

As Mary Schalk said in a recent column on the Lifestyles page of The News, the biggest tools in that suicide-fighting tool box are reaching out and speaking up, whether you are someone struggling or someone who loves someone struggling.

“Talking with someone who cares and will listen without judgement can go a long way in reducing feelings of loneliness, overwhelm and distress,” Schalk wrote. “If you are struggling, talk to someone you trust. If you are concerned about someone, start a conversation, ask how they are doing and be prepared to listen in a way that helps you understand. Don’t jump to giving advice or trying to ‘talk them out of it.’ Help them find resources to address their needs — employment, parenting, mental health, food, substance use, or myriad others. Check in with each other regularly.”

According to the Michigan Association for Suicide Prevention, some of the warning signs include:

— Talking about suicide or making a plan;

— Obsessing about death;

— Writing poems, essays, or drawings that refer to death;

— Sleeping or eating too much or too little;

— Giving away treasured belongings;

— Withdrawing from friends and activities;

— Losing interest in personal appearance;

— Showing extreme changes in behavior or personality;

— Taking unnecessary risk.

There are ways to help. The MASP suggests:

— Let him or her know you care;

— Listen to the person’s feelings;

— Listen non-judgmentally — don’t act shocked;

— Ask,“Are you thinking about hurting yourself? Have you made a plan?”

— Encourage the person to seek help. Say things such as,“I know where we can get some help. Let’s call the crisis line right now.”

The Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached at 800-273-8255.

Don’t be afraid to talk. Help is available, and no one has to take their own life.

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