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Healthy Tahoe: Finding words to talk about suicide

Debbie Posnien

Suicide is a serious public health problem and affects people of all ages. Suicide can be prevented if the signs are detected and the right actions are taken.

Healthy coping skills are critical for dealing with trauma throughout life. Unfortunately, some people lack effective coping skills. 

Certain protective factors can help reduce the risk of suicide, including effective behavioral healthcare, connectedness to individuals, family, and social institutions, life skills such as problem solving and coping, self-esteem and a sense of purpose in life, cultural, religious, or personal beliefs that discourage suicide.



While there are a spectrum of warning signs ranging from mild to severe, even the smallest indication can be a cause for concern. The most critical warning signs of suicide are: talking about wanting to die or about suicide, talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, and looking for ways to kill oneself.

If someone you know is displaying these signs, take action and follow these steps:



Step one: Ask. Ask the person directly if he or she is thinking about suicide. “I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently and I’m really concerned. Are you thinking about suicide?”

Step two: Listen. Hear the person’s story. Offer support without judgment. “It sounds like you’re going through a lot. I am so sorry. How can I support you?”

Step three: Connect. Connect the person to resources. “I want to make sure you stay safe. Can we call someone so we can keep you safe?”

Suicide is preventable and resources exist to support individuals, families, and communities. People experiencing a mental health crisis can call or text the numbers 9-8-8. Modeled after 911, the new three-digit 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline connects people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis to a trained counselor. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

If you suspect a loved one is in deep pain or displaying any of the warning signs of suicide, take action. Don’t wait; speak with them now. Contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for crisis support. If somebody is at immediate risk, don’t leave the person alone. Call 911, take them to the emergency room, or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Debbie Posnien is the executive director with the Suicide Prevention Network. The Suicide Prevention Network offers education, awareness, and supportive services at spnawareness.org. For more information about taking care of your mental health, or for a list of area resources and crisis lines, visit BartonHealth.org/MentalHealth.


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