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We answer calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for the northwest Florida region (850 area code). Services provided include free and confidential suicide prevention and mental health counseling. We answer hundreds of calls from people in emotional distress each year. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call us immediately.
Did you know that, in the U. S., one person commits suicide every 15 minutes? Or that it's estimated that there were over 34,000 suicides in 2007?
It is believed that most individuals that have thoughts of suicide do want to live. They just feel trapped in their current situation and want to end the pain they are experiencing.
Suicidal crises tend to be brief. When suicidal behaviors are detected early, lives can be saved. There are services available in our community for the assessment and treatment of suicidal behaviors, and their underlying causes.
Join us in supporting suicide prevention. Learn about the issues or help a suicidal person seek help. Together, we can reduce the number of suicides in our community.
In the Big Bend area, call Helpline 2 1-1 24-hours a day for free, private crisis counseling and suicide prevention assistance.
While there is no single predictor of suicide, there are some common warning signs to watch for. A suicidal person may:
• Talk about suicide, death, and/or no reason to live.
• Be preoccupied with death and dying.
• Withdraw from friends and/or social activities.
• Have a recent, severe loss (especially a relationship), or threat of a significant loss.
• Experience drastic changes in behavior.
• Lose interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
• Prepare for death by making out a will (unexpectedly) and final arrangements.
• Give away prized possessions.
• Have attempted suicide before.
• Take unnecessary risks; be reckless and/or impulsive.
• Lose interest in their personal appearance.
• Increase their use of alcohol or drugs.
• Express a sense of hopelessness.
• Be faced with a situation of humiliation or failure.
• Have a history of violence or hostility.
• Have been unwilling to "connect" with potential helpers.
Nearly everyone at some time in his or her life thinks about suicide. Most people decide to live because they come to realize that the crisis is temporary, but death is not. On the other hand, people in the midst of a crisis often perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. Frequently, they can't:
• Stop the pain
• Think clearly
• Make decisions
• See any way out
• Sleep, eat, or work
• Get out of the depression
• Make the sadness go away
• See the possibility of change
• See themselves as worthwhile
• Get someone's attention
• Seem to get control
If you experience any of these feelings or if you know someone who exhibits these feelings contact 1-800-273-TALK.
If you are feeling like you want to kill yourself, we want to help. We know you are hurting right now, but you don't have to go through this alone. This page contains some suggestions for things you can do right away to help yourself get through the immediate crisis and have a chance to find other solutions.
Talk to someone who has experience helping people in your situation:
• a crisis or suicide hotline
• a private therapist, counselor, or psychologist
• a community mental health agency
• a school counselor
• a family physician
• a religious/spiritual leader
Develop a list of things that you can do when you are in crisis.
When you find yourself getting overwhelmed, go down your list and do each thing until you are able to go on. For instance, your list might include:
• Do some deep breathing exercises. Count to ten while breathing.
• Take a hot bath.
• Call a crisis hotline (keep the number with you and by your phone).
• Eat your favorite food.
• Watch a movie on TV.
• Read a magazine.
• Write in a journal.
• Call friends or support people (keep their numbers with you and by your phone).
• Go for a walk.
Your list should contain many items that help you to calm down, and may not be like the list above at all. The important thing is that it is useful to you.
Avoid using drugs and alcohol when you are feeling desperate or in a crisis.
Although it is tempting to try to use them to try to numb painful feelings, they can make your emotions more volatile, and affect your judgment. Using drugs or alcohol while you are in crisis will greatly increase your risk of hurting or killing yourself impulsively, even though you may not have have fully decided to do that.
Give yourself today.
The option of killing yourself isn't going to go away. It is a choice you can make tomorrow or next week or next month, if you decide that's still what you want. When you are feeling so bad that you want to kill yourself, the thought of just surviving the days ahead can seem exhausting, overwhelming, and unbearable. So try to focus on just getting through today, not the rest of your life. Your coping ability is greatly weakened right now. You may not be able to imagine getting through this -- but your thoughts can play tricks on you when you're in crisis. So don't try to handle thoughts of the future right now; just make a decision to get through today. Today may be painful, but you can decide to survive it and give some other options a chance, at least for a day.
Remember that however alone you feel, there are people who want to talk with you, who want to help. Call a crisis line to talk with someone like that right now. In the Tallahassee / Big Bend area, call 2-1-1, 24-hours a day. If you are located elsewhere in the United States, check your phonebook or call 1-800-273-TALK.
If You Are Worried About Someone Else
Recognize Warning Signs for Suicide Risk:
Remember that there is no typical suicidal person. Anyone can be thinking of killing themselves. Review some of the common warning signs that you can look for.
What You Can Do If Think Someone May Be Suicidal:
Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide. Ask the person, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?" Don't lessen the reality of the situation by using phrases like "ending it all" or "going to sleep." Gently hold up for the person what kind of decision they are really making.
Listen to the person in crisis. Allow expressions of feelings, including feelings about wanting to die. Accept the feelings, even if they scare you. Let the person cry or scream if needed in order to get their feelings out.
Make a specific contract with the person to call you, a crisis line, or some other person or agency before they do anything to hurt or kill themselves. If the person won't make such a promise, it is not safe to leave them alone for any period of time. Make sure someone stays close by the person (in the same room, in visual contact) and get outside help immediately.
Don't say things like "It's not so bad" or "Things will get better soon." That invalidates the overwhelming feelings that the suicidal person is having and can cause them to feel very alone. Instead, try to say things like, "You feel so terrible right now that you can't see any way out other than killing yourself." That lets the suicidal person know that you can hear how desperate they feel.
Don't be judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life. Don't talk about suicide in judgmental terms, such as "doing something dumb."
Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support. Let the suicidal person know that you care about them.
Don't underestimate a threat of suicide. It's natural to want to believe that a friend or loved one isn't at risk, but the fact is that people who threaten to commit suicide often do commit suicide. By the time friends and family become aware of the suicidal thoughts, the risk of suicide is often very high. Take the person seriously. Never dare the person to do it or tell the person that you don't think that they would be able to do it. Do not deny or minimize the idea that the person is serious.
Try not to act shocked. This will put distance between you and the suicidal person, and they may feel like you can't understand. Show them that you want to understand and that you are not going to turn away or reject how they feel.
Get support for yourself so that you will be able to support the suicidal person. Don't agree that you will keep their thoughts of suicide secret. Let them know that you will be there to love and support them, and that you will need to get more support for both of you. Don't try to handle a suicidal person by yourself. Bring in other friends or family or call a crisis hotline for support.
Try to find out how the person plans to kill himself or herself. Do they have a specific plan, with the time, day and/or method picked out? The more specific the plan, the greater the risk. Some methods of suicide tend to be more lethal than others. For example, if a suicidal person plans to use a firearm, that represents a very high level of risk. However, almost all methods carry serious risk. Remember that some over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can be life-threatening, even in relatively small doses.
Remove the method, such as the gun, pills, or knife. Call law enforcement if there is immediate danger involved to yourself or to the person in crisis. For instance, you should not try to get a gun out of the hands of a suicidal person. You could end up harming both yourself and the other person. Law enforcement officers are trained to handle dangerous situations, and you should let them intervene.
Get help from experts. Call your local suicide or crisis hotline (e.g., Helpline 2-1-1 or 1-800-273-TALK). Get in touch with a therapist or counselor who has experience working with suicidal clients. Most states have laws allowing for short-term, involuntary evaluation and hospitalization for people who demonstrate suicidal intent. In Florida, this law is called the "Baker Act." Suicide hotlines are often able to provide you with information and talk with you about what your options are.
Do you know someone who is going through a really hard time right now? Do you want to help, but you're not sure how?
The more you understand about what someone is going through when they are "in crisis," the easier it may be to find helpful things to say and do.
Below is the definition and approach to crisis that is used by counselors on our hotlines:
Definition of Crisis
A crisis is any situation for which a person does not have adequate coping skills. Therefore, crisis is self-defined. What is a crisis for one person may not be a crisis for another person. Crises may range from seemingly minor situations, such as not being prepared for class, to major life changes, such as death or divorce. Crisis is environmentally based. What is now a crisis may not have been a crisis before or would not be a crisis in a different setting.
The Crisis Process
Crises tend to have a specific pattern:
Recognition: The person realizes that they are not coping.
Attempted Resolution: The person struggles to solve the situation and may involve other people to try and help. Typically, a crisis person does not perceive others as fully understanding the crisis or supporting the crisis person in the crisis.
Emotional Blockage: Not being able to solve the crisis, the person is overwhelmed by emotions. Fear, anxiety, anger, confusion, inadequacy, guilt, and grief are common. From the sheer intensity of the emotions, the person becomes unable to deal rationally with the situation. Usual thought processes are disrupted by feelings, and "thinking about the problem" is not only difficult, but also frustrating and unproductive. This perceived inability to deal with what is going on leads to a loss of self-esteem and reinforces the panic of emotions surrounding the situation. A vicious cycle is formed; not coping lowers the self-esteem, and the lowered self-esteem lessens the ability to cope.
How To Respond To Someone In Crisis
In order to help someone resolve their crisis, it is necessary to begin, not at the beginning with the situation, but at the end with the overwhelming emotions. In order to help someone in crisis, you must deal with the feelings. The emotions are blocking the person's abilities to think and cope. Spend time identifying and talking about feelings -- this is the most important part of how you can help someone who has a problem that they don't know how to cope with. Strive to understand and empathize.
You will not be able to respond effectively until you understand the problem from the crisis person's point of view. To be helpful you must understand what the situation means to the person involved. Encourage the person in crisis to identify the problem. By allowing the crisis person to explain what the situation means to them and by permitting the person to identify and explore the feelings, often the emotional blockage is reduced and the person can start to find their own answers.
Once the intense feelings have been processed and you feel as if you understand the problem from the crisis person's point of view, then you can begin to help them look for their own coping skills and alternatives. Try not to give advice or offer a solution. The person knows the situation and their own skills better than anyone else, even better than someone who has been through similar experiences. People in crisis are easily influenced. Having answers provided lowers the person's self-esteem further and can lead to dependency or resentment. By producing their own solutions, people in crisis are more likely to follow through with the plans and develop new coping skills.
People who talk about suicide do not commit suicide.
Most people who commit suicide have talked about or given definite warning signs of their suicidal intentions.
Suicide happens without warning.
There are almost always warning signs, but others are often unaware of the significance of the warnings or unsure about what to do.
Suicidal people are fully intent on dying. Nothing others do or say can help.
Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems.
Once someone is suicidal, they are suicidal forever.
Most suicidal people are suicidal for only limited periods of time. However, someone who has made an attempt is at increased risk for future attempts.
Improvement after a suicidal crisis means that the risk of suicide is over.
Almost half of the people that survive a suicide attempt make another attempt within five years.
Suicide strikes most often among the rich, or conversely, among the poor.
Suicide cuts across social and economic boundaries.
There are many web sites that contain helpful information and services related to suicide. Here are are a few that we recommend:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The "National Suicide Prevention Lifeline" connects callers throughout the United States to the certified crisis centers closest to their calling locations. Highly trained hotline counselors are available 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week to speak with callers in crisis. (Callers in the Big Bend area are connected to Helpline 2-1-1.)
If You Are Thinking About Suicide...Read This First.
This is a site put together by a person who is not a mental health care professional, but does have some things to say that might be of help to you. The site also includes a list of resources, information on recovery, and information on the stigma of suicide.
SA\VE (Suicide Awareness\Voices of Education) has lots of information about suicide and depression that may be helpful to you.
The American Association of Suicidology (AAS)
The national association for suicide professionals. The web site contains lists of crisis centers/hotlines, support groups, and many other helpful resources.
African American Suicide Fact Sheet (PDF)
Survivors of Suicide Fact Sheet (PDF)
Elderly Suicide Fact Sheet (PDF)
Understanding and Helping the Suicidal Individual (PDF)
Links Between Suicide and Depression (PDF)
Youth Suicide Facts (PDF)
Are you a reporter who is working on a story related to suicide? If so, you may want to be aware of a phenomenon called "media-related suicide contagion."
Research studies have shown that prominent media stories about suicide are associated with a significant increase in suicide attempts within the media outlet's coverage area.
In order to help reporters and community officials learn about this problem and minimize the risks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and other organizations have endorsed a set of recommendations to consider when reporting about suicide. These recommendations include background information as well as examples of media reports that are more likely or less likely to promote suicide contagion.