A Walk to Remember – Remembering Loved Ones Lost to Suicide
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ohio –
Life can be a challenge, but during COVID you may have experienced the loss of “normal”. Many have feared a possible infection and hospitalization, less access to needed services, loss of jobs and economic uncertainties. The stress of dealing with new, often undesirable “normals” and fewer connections with others may contribute to new mental health challenges.
The Suicide Awareness Alliance (SAA) of Washington County, a 501(c)(3) supported by the Washington County Behavioral Health Board (WCBHB), has been working since its inception in 2010 to educate the public on how to assist those who are contemplating suicide.
According to the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, people often believe in suicide MYTHS that need to be DEBUNKED, including: “People who talk about suicide don’t complete suicide;” “Talking to a depressed person about suicide will put the idea into his/her head;” “Suicide statements or actions are bids for attention or manipulation;” and “People who attempt suicide are weak or immoral.”
Although there are no fool-proof ways to make sure a loved one does not choose suicide, you can learn the signs and helpful responses through courses like Mental Health First Aid, an 8-hour training, and QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), a 2-3 hour training, both offered by the Washington County Behavioral Health Board (740-374-6990).
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, some indicators of suicidal intent include:
- Talking about killing themselves, about hopelessness, helplessness, unbearable pain or being a burden to others
- Withdrawal/isolation from family and friends
- Telling people goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
- Moods indicating depression, anxiety, irritability or humiliation
- Loss of enjoyment of and interest in activities once important
- Increases use of alcohol or other drugs
If you suspect that someone is contemplating suicide, it is important to take it seriously. After talking to that person in a caring way and reflecting upon symptoms you have noticed, ask that person directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” and if so, “Have you given any thought to how you would do it?” The more a person thinks about suicide and has made serious plans, the more likely that person will follow through on that plan. Although probing questions may be difficult to ask, it is important to be direct. When a person has indicated that s/he has given serious thought to suicide and has a plan, it is important to stay with that person. Don’t leave him/her alone until s/he is connected with a knowledgeable adult, parent, mental health counselor, or even a hospital emergency room nurse. Sometimes, those who are suicidal may want to also be connected to a local Mental Health Crisis Hotline (Mon. – Fri., 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) (740) 373-8240, a National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK, or a Crisis Text Line – text “4HOPE” to 741741. It is often easier for some to talk privately to someone s/he does not know and doesn’t have to look at face-to-face. By helping someone connect to another caring human trained to help with suicidal thoughts, feelings and plans – YOU CAN MAKE AN IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE! … And possibly save a life!
The Suicide Awareness Alliance sponsors a support group called HOPE, (Helping Other People Endure), for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Unfortunately, others may shy away from those experiencing suicidal loss because they don’t know what to say or do, leaving them even more isolated and alone! HOPE’s mission is to help survivors accept, work through, and adjust emotionally, with the understanding that grief is a personal journey and no two journeys are alike. HOPE meets one evening a month in Marietta. For more information about this group, call LeeAnn Price at 740-350-3365. Confidentiality is of the utmost importance.
Fortunately, in 2017, voters of Washington County chose to pass our first Mental Health Levy which made it possible for many more individuals and families to receive important mental health services that were not available in the past. The community is needed to further the mission of the SAA by joining the Alliance, volunteering at Alliance events, and by participating in “A Walk to Remember” on October 9 at 10:00 a.m. at the Armory in Marietta.
For more information on mental health and addiction services, call the WCBHB at (740) 374-6990.
The suicide of a loved one is devastating, but community education regarding recognition of suicidal intent and helpful responses can be a powerful deterrent to this tragedy.
Written by Karen Binkley, EdD, president of the Suicide Awareness Alliance of Washington County