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Publically addressing a tough topic like suicide, which is often ignored due to stigma, can have surprising, positive effects.
Perhaps the best, recent example is the release of the song “1-800-273-8255” by Logic. The song’s title is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and its content is reflective of someone calling into the lifeline and choosing life, after talking with the representative. The NSPL described the song’s release as a “watershed event” for them. Calls to the lifeline rose by 27%, visits to their website were up around 33%, and Google searches for the lifeline number have remained up at 25% since the song’s release in April.
Efforts such as Logic’s are needed as suicide rates have been on the rise since 2000, especially for adolescents ages 10 to 19 where suicide is the second leading cause of death. Recent rates suggest that bullying, both in-person and via the internet, are big contributing factors of this, according to USA Today. This is agreed on by Dr. Peggy Scallon, board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, and medical director of FOCUS Adolescent Mood Disorders program at Rogers Behavioral Health. She says that increased access to the internet and social media can cause constant exposure to harmful content.
According to Dr. Scallon, interpersonal sensitivity – or their exposure to and internalization of feelings such as humiliation, isolation or rejection – is a risk factor unique to adolescents due to their developing and dynamic identities. If feelings such as this persist or worsen, the following warning signs may occur:
If someone you know is demonstrating any of these signs, please take action. Don’t assume that their feelings are temporary and will pass or aren’t serious. Whether you’re a family member or friend, acquaintance, colleague or peer, you are capable of stopping someone from attempting suicide.
Being blunt and asking if they’re considering suicide outright is the best way to receive an honest answer, according to Barbara Moser, MD and chairwoman of Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee.
“It’s a tough question to ask, but we have to do it,” Dr. Moser says. “We have to be with the person, as a fellow human being and ask the tough questions, and if we get a ‘yes’ then stick around to keep them safe.”
If they say yes, get help right away. Call 911 if they’re in immediate danger. If not, encourage them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the word “Hopeline” to 741741 to receive confidential, free support or reach out to a healthcare provider. Rogers Behavioral Health has assistance available by calling 800-767-4411 for a free screening. Don’t leave them alone, and try to remove any dangerous objects from the area.
If they say no and you assess that their level of risk is low, follow the Safe Person Decal Seven Promises, created in partnership with Rogers InHealth, which will allow you to listen and support effectively.
Most importantly, assure them that their life is important and that there is hope for a better, brighter future. Sue McKenzie, co-director of Rogers InHealth—a branch of Rogers Behavioral Health that focuses on creating inclusive and supportive communities—says that “the best path to hope is exposure to others who have walked the path before and can share their experiences along the way to recovery living.” This is why InHealth’s site features personal accounts of individuals who’ve faced various mental health challenges and recovered, including Brandon’s story, displayed below.
“As human beings, we need to be better at recognizing emotional suffering in others, and feeling ok with ourselves about asking people, ‘Are you suffering? Are you really having a hard time right now?’” says Dr. Moser. “Find out what’s going on with people and then reach out! It’s a tough conversation to have, but we need to have it. And if you think a person may be thinking of suicide, ask them, and take action!”
Not everyone has as large of a platform as Logic does, but it doesn’t take a microphone to inspire hope or let someone know that they are not alone.
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