My first experience with someone who died by suicide was in high school. It was odd to have been in class with someone one day and then they were gone. Students, staff and our community individually pondered the question, “Did we miss or ignore potential warning signs?”
This is National Suicide Prevention Week, an opportunity to inform and engage the community about suicide prevention and the warning signs of suicide. The signs may appear in conversations, actions or in social media posts. The signs include reckless behavior, changes in sleep, talking about wanting to die or suicide, or feeling hopeless, desperate, trapped. Other warning signs might be giving away possessions or talking about being a burden to others. Someone might withdraw or have no sense of purpose, exhibit sudden mood changes or be anxious or agitated.
If you observe one or more of these warning signs, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss or change, step in or speak up. Start with, “I’m your friend and I’ve noticed (state observation). Can you tell me more?” Be prepared to listen and be non-judgmental.
An outstanding resource is the National Suicide Prevention lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline provides free, confidential emotional support and referrals to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Great advice for everyone is to love the person you are — figure out what makes you happy and do more of it. Here are a few tips:
1. Focus on what is going well. We spend a lot of time examining problems; balance it out by acknowledging what is going right. 2. Make a connection. Spend some quality time with a friend and practice active listening. 3. Check in with your health. Take a walk, go on a hike or other activity. If you have been putting off a doctor’s appointment, today is the day to prioritize this task. 4. Do something for someone else. Look into volunteer opportunities or explore participating in intergenerational programs. If you are an animal lover, consider fostering a dog or cat. Do you know someone who has been struggling or is lonely? Send them a card, drop off a meal, or stop by and see how they are doing. 5. Discover an inspiration. Reflect on what makes you feel inspired — this can be an activity, a hobby, spending time with loved ones, or being part of a community or faith-based group.
Since we can all be more aware and more informed, consider signing up for a future Mental Health First Aid course. K-State Research and Extension Cowley County will be facilitating quarterly training events throughout the county. The course equips people to offer help and hope for friends and neighbors experiencing mental health challenges. Call (620) 221-5450 to be added to the waiting list for a future course.
Upcoming K-State Research and Extension Events
• Oct. 4 — Stay Strong Stay Healthy, South Central Kansas Specialty Clinic, Arkansas City, 9:30-10:30 a.m. $20, call 441-4565 to register (class meets for 8 weeks, typically Mondays & Wednesdays).
• Oct. 29, Nov. 5, 12 & 19 — Dining with Diabetes, Winfield Public Library, 5:30-7:30 p.m. $25 for all 4 sessions, call (620) 221-5450 to register.
Becky Reid is the family and consumer sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension, Cowley County. She can be reached at 221-5450 or (620) 441-4565.