Do not keep suicidal thoughts to yourself!
Help is available for you, whether through a friend, therapist, coach, teacher, clergy or a community resource person. Find someone you trust and let them know how you are feeling. Talking can be very helpful and healing.
The Ambivalence of Suicide
By Roxana Colman-Herak
Each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth that offers guidance and wisdom needed to deal with our problems, but, that inner voice is often garbled by inward and outward interference. Parker Palme, A Hidden Wholeness.
We are all affected by the stinging effect of suicide. Planning, collaboration and networking with law enforcement, mental health, community volunteers, schools, spiritual leaders, clergy are all critically important in life promoting activities and prevention. Prior to 2000, there was no statewide or strategic efforts to link resources to build a stronger network to address suicide. In the fall of 2007, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes began working on a Suicide Prevention Action Plan that incorporates three educational strategies: prevention, intervention and postvention activities.
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration)
awarded the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes grants for the
Circle of Trust Youth Suicide and Early Prevention Projects.
The last thing that most people expect is that they will run out of reasons to live. But if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you need to know that you’re not alone. By some estimates, as many as one in six people will become seriously suicidal at some point in their lives. Fortunately, most people do not act on their suicidal thoughts – crises pass and problems are solved.
The timeless question, why would someone see suicide as an option to end life has haunted our community for too long and answers don’t come easily, if ever. Suicide is appropriately called and felt to be a Taboo Topic. What has emerged and continues to be awakened in our community is a “sincere desire to learn more about what can be done to help someone at risk of suicide. The individuality of suicide makes it impossible to speak specifically to what someone may have been thinking or feeling in the moment the choice was made to end life. Contrary to belief, suicides don’t always happen spontaneously—most people who commit suicide have reached out for help in one way or another. Talking to someone about suicide does not make someone start thinking about suicide—the thought was already there.
Many reading this article may have, at some point heard someone make statements: “no one cares, I wouldn’t be missed, I can’t take the pain anymore, no one understands or no one is listening.” If someone told you they were thinking about suicide, what would you do? What would you say? For most, it is an uncomfortable topic.
The more helpers who are willing to help the better chance we have to make a difference. We can be better listeners, better caregivers, better parents, better friends and better prepared for that person who says to you that they are thinking about suicide.
For the first time, suicide has
surpassed car accidents as the No. 1 cause of injuty-related death
in the Untied States. In 2010 there were 38,364 suicides in the
U.S. (105 suicides per day; 1 suicide every 13.7 minutes).
Montana state had 243 suicides in 2014 for an average of 20 per
month, 85 of those were in Lake County according to the
Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Eighty percent of our population has had thoughts of suicide at
some point in life. It’s no secret that we all have problems
and may find ourselves caught in confusion, despair and feelings
of hopelessness but we have managed to find our way through life’s
mazes. Problems that continue to be compounded over time,
however become a serious concern for the person at risk.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary situation. The more we share experiences and support each other, the greater the understanding and appreciation we gain for that person who is desperately trying to sort through their thoughts. Many people have shared that what was most helpful getting through the tough times is having someone who cares enough to listen without the added burden of judgment.
Life itself takes us to places that test and tax our emotional well-being and sadly alcohol, drugs and fast fixes have come to be a norm to dealing with life situations. When we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory it is not uncommon to feel like running away, moving away, isolating, or self medicating with alcohol and drugs. Life will prevail over death if given half a chance. Perhaps there are options and choices that can be considered to give life a chance. Suicide crosses all boundaries, every age group, every culture, and every race and every age. It is not going to just going to go away because we want it. We need to want change so bad that we are willing to learn how to be better helpers…better listeners. The need for more helpers has arrived.
According to figures released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, in 2004 and 2005 on drug use and health in Montana had the seventh highest rate of depression (20 percent higher than the national average). Suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth 10-24 years of age, surpassed only by accidental injuries such as automobile accidents, drowning and fire. Approximately 70 percent of teen suicides in the US have alcohol or drugs in their systems upon death. For every completed suicide by youth, it is estimated that there are 100-200 attempts.
When people perceive their situation as inescapable (even though it is a temporary life situation) they may feel life is out of control:
- Can't stop the pain
- Can't think clearly
- Can't make decisions
- Can't see a way out
- Can't sleep, eat, or work
- Can't stop feeling depressed
- Can't make the sadness go away
- Can't see the possibility of change
- Can't see themselves as worthwhile
- Can't get someone's attention
obvious suicide warning signs are:
- Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves
- Talking or writing about death
- Excessive alcohol/drug use
- Anxiety, irritation, agitation
- Inability to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Expressing feelings of being trapped (there's no way out)
- Feeling hopeless
- Withdrawing from friends, family and society
- In rage or seeking revenge
- Reckless behavior
Most suicidal people desperately
want to live, but can’t see a way out of what of what is
often a temporary situation. Most suicidal people give
definite warning signals of their intentions, but those in
close contact with them miss, avoid, dismiss or are unaware
of the significance of these signals.
THE MONTANA WARM LINE 1-877-688-3377 is up and running. On September 1, 2008 the Montana WARM LINE opened. The WARM LINE is a non-crisis line staffed by primary consumers for people with who want to talk to a peer about issues or problems they are facing. The WARM LINE is a safe, confidential place to talk about what is really going on. Listening and being heard can be a rich, rewarding experience. WARM LINE provides a friendly and understanding person when you just need someone to talk to. The Montana Mental Health Association has also created a “Virtual Drop-In Center,” that utilizes the telephone and internet to provide home-based services for people with mental illness. Check it out
www.montanawarmline.org for schedules and information on upcoming groups and programs. Blog users have access to resources and support online. The WARM LINE is not a crisis line, however operators can refer people who are considering suicide to appropriate services. Through a 3-way calling, WARM Line staff can access emergency services if needed. If you are a mental health consumer interested in working on the WARM LINE contact MMHA at 877-927-6642 for details.
WHAT IS ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training)? ASIST is a 2-day workshop designed to teach caregivers to competently and confidently intervene with an individual at risk of suicide. ASIST prepares individuals from all walks of life to integrate principles of intervention into everyday practice. ASIST is divided in four learning modules: attitudes, knowledge, intervention and resources that are illustrated with case studies, videos, live dramatizations, simulations and practice exercises. Each workshop is limited to 30 participants,
to find a workshop near you please visit
WHAT IS SAFETALK (Suicide Alertness) SafeTALK is a new LivingWorks suicide alertness program that teaches community members to recognize persons with thoughts of suicide and to connect them to suicide intervention resources. SafeTALK prepares community members of all kinds to be suicide alert helpers. SafeTALK participants are aware that opportunities to help a person with thoughts of suicide are sometimes missed, dismissed and avoided. They want persons with thoughts to invite their help. They know the TALK steps (Tell, Ask, Listen and KeepSafe) and can activate a suicide alert. The keep safe step connect persons with thoughts of suicide to trained community resources in suicide intervention for help. SafeTALK is designed to be used in organizations and communities where there are ASIST-trained caregivers. SafeTALK developed because not everyone can commit to a 2-day ASIST workshop. SafeTALK complements the work of ASIST and other intervention training programs. Seating limited to 45.
For more information about upcoming Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training “ASIST” or safeTALK contact Roxana Colman-Herak at Circle of Trust Suicide Prevention Program (406) 270-8631, (406) 675-2700 ext 1237 or Marty Herak at (406) 644-0797.
Many of us face a dilemma when trying to deal with personal problems, questions, or decisions. We know that the problem is ours alone to resolve and that we have the inner resources to resolve it, but accessing our own resources is often blocked by layers of inner "stuff"—confusion, habitual thinking, fear, despair. We know that friends might help us uncover our inner resources and find our way, but by exposing our problem to others, we run the risk of being invaded and overwhelmed by their assumptions, judgments, and advice. A Circle of Trust doesn’t attempt to fix, advise, save or set anyone straight—it provides a quiet, safe, confidential space that invites a wounded soul to be heard.
Some Important Facts from the American Association of Suicidology
Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated. Clinical depression, anxiety disorders, chemical dependency, and other disorders produce profound emotional distress. They also interfere with effective problem-solving. But you need to know that new treatments are available, and studies show that the vast majority of people who receive appropriate treatment improve or recover completely. Even if you have received treatment before, you should know that different treatments work better for different people in different situations. Several tries are sometimes necessary before the right combination is found.
Problems are seldom as great as they appear at first glance. Job loss, financial problems, loss of important people in our lives – all such stressful events can seem catastrophic at the time they are happening. Then, month or years later, they usually look smaller and more manageable. Sometimes, imagining ourselves “five years down the road” can help us to see that a problem that currently seems catastrophic will pass and that we will survive. Reasons for living can help sustain a person in pain. A famous psychologist once conducted a study of Nazi concentration camp survivors, and found that those who survived almost always reported strong beliefs about what was important in life. You, too, might be able to strengthen your connection with life if you consider what has sustained you through hard times in the past. Family ties, religion, love of art or nature, and dreams for the future are just a few of the many aspects of life that provide meaning and gratification, but which we can lose sight of due to emotional distress.