By: Linda S. Butler, Ph.D., LCSW
Director, Psychiatry Administration/Outpatient Clinical Manager
Suicide is heartbreaking. It takes away what we hold most dear, the life of someone we know and/or love. It touches all of us, if not personally, then through our friends, in our communities, and in our workplaces.
There is no single cause of suicide. So, there is no prescription to prevent it, universal therapy to treat it, or family-type to avoid it. The personal suffering of those who die by suicide is often kept well-hidden. Suicide is complicated and mostly unpredictable. Family, friends and neighbors all struggle with the emotional impact of the news that someone has died by suicide.
A person who dies by suicide was part of a whole community, so a ripple effect begins and the loss touches a growing number of community members:
- School staff and teachers
- Public service members; like police, firemen or mail deliverers
- Local businesses
- Religious members
We all want to prevent suicide. It takes everyone in our communities to do this work, because when there is a suicide, everyone in the community is affected. Holding parents or families responsible is unfair and unhealthy. There is a lot happening to help prevent suicides that everyone can be a part of, here are some resources:
- Our government's National Institute of Mental Health recognizes suicide as a leading cause of death in the U.S., and actively studies suicide and its impact, and invests in prevention.
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists risk facts, statistics, and treatment options.
- The U.S. National Alliance for suicide tells us about their task force Prevention Research Efforts.
- The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) sponsors an annual World Suicide Prevention Day to create awareness and encourage you to talk to someone you are worried about.
In Maine, the Department of Health and Human Services partnered with NAMI, the National Association for Mental Illness, and created the Maine Suicide Prevention Program The Program offers a hotline, a referral system, school guidelines, conferences, and training's to the public and everyone involved in a suicide event.
Resources for Help:
Community members taking care of each other and reaching out to professional services is our best bet for suicide prevention.
If all of us know signs to look for, and we pursue our concerns, we could be able to lower the number of suicide deaths. This is supported by more public sharing about suicide, by family members, support groups, professionals and survivors themselves:
- Here John Schramm, a suicide survivor shares his experience.
- In a TED Talk, Former Police Sergeant Kevin Briggs, offers advice to those with loved ones who contemplate suicide.
Signs of suicide:
If you are worried about someone you know, this recent Portland Press Herald article, is a good place to start learning about the signs of suicide. If you see any or all of these signs and feel something is wrong in your gut, it is worth checking in with that person. Become available for them to talk with, and just listen. Then support that person to go get professional help. Licensed behavioral health physicians and clinicians are trained in suicide assessment and can offer more formalized treatment.
The most important elements to helping are:
- Being available
Important phone numbers:
Share these phone numbers with family, friends and your community. Help to spread awareness of all the ways that everyone in the community can be a part of helping.
- Maine Suicide Prevention helpline number:800-464-5767.This is not a crisis line, but could be helpful for someone who is thinking about harming themselves.
- State Crisis Number:888-568-1112. If someone is actively planning to commit suicide and has the means to do so (such as access to a gun or to pills)
The health educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.