Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Activities – Tell Your Heart Story

Suicide affects everyone. The risk of suicide is a combination of  individual, relationship, community, and societal factors. ANTHC recognizes that suicide can be challenging to talk about, so we welcome you to support our journey by starting a conversation. Please join us through the month of September to honor Suicide Prevention Awareness with (5) weekly activities aimed to normalize conversations about suicide. Remember, we are in this together.

Please carefully read through the activity and then fill out the survey. Each week, there will be a random drawing among survey completions for a $50 gift card; a grand prize drawing will be randomly drawn at the end of the five weeks. 

Disclaimer: For participant safety, we ask that all participants be 15 years of age or older.

Week 4 – September 20-26: Asking Directly About Suicide

What we will learn:

  • Asking directly about suicide is helpful
  • Tips on how to ask directly about suicide

Asking directly about suicide is helpful even if suicide turns out not to be involved. If the person denies thoughts of suicide then asking causes no harm. The person you asked may be a little mad, but it is worth it to you to know it was at least not suicide. On the other hand, the person who may have been at risk may appreciate you asking and will know they could talk with you about suicide in the future if they need to. 

It is also important to be helpfully curious in some situations. For example, after this lesson you may have seen signs that a person might be thinking of suicide. By learning how to identify the signs, you may feel more comfortable with asking directly about suicide. The more specific you can be about their signs of suicide, the clearer the reasons for asking about suicide. 

A person may provide signs they are thinking about suicide in their media posts, like in Facebook or SnapChat. You can identify these signs by certain words or feelings that they post. If you notice a post that makes you concerned for their safety, it is important to take action. You can private message the person, call, video call (Facetime), or text them. If you are not sure how to help or close to the 

person, you can report the post to the safety teams of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, and Discord. The safety teams will reach out to the person directly.

Please read the statement below and think about how you would ask about suicide. 

You are friends with Rachel on Facebook. Rachel recently posted “I’ve been depressed lately. Robbie broke up with me, I cannot make the sadness go away and I do not know how to deal with this. I feel so hopeless.”

Here are some useful tips when asking about suicide (see examples of these tips below):

  • Tell the person at risk the signs you have noticed
  • Also include their experiences, feelings, and reactions 

Now, let us practice asking directly about suicide. Consider saying the following statements aloud to yourself, and use your own words. 

Script 1: When someone goes through a break-up and starts expressing feelings of depression, sadness, and hopelessness sometimes that means they may be thinking about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?

Script 2: Sometimes when people are withdrawing from friends and family and drinking a lot of alcohol they are thinking about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?

Reflection

How did it go saying it aloud? It can be very challenging to ask directly if you are close with the person. Often, practicing it aloud ahead of time can help you overcome that challenge.

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Week 3 – September 13-19: Identifying Signs

What we will learn:

  • Invitations or signs are things that you can see, hear, or sense that a person at risk for suicide always communicates that they are feeling blue or in pain
  • Signs can be direct, indirect, non-verbal or an event and can be different for each person

A person at risk for suicide always communicates that they are feeling blue or in pain. We call these signs and they can be a direct statement, such as: “I am thinking about killing myself.” The signs can also be non-verbal or actual events. An example of a non-verbal sign is isolating themselves from others, and an example of events can be losing a job or family member. So, as a helper you will need to explore these direct and indirect signs and ask about suicide.

Our job is to tune in when something does not feel right, which may be an opportunity to ask directly about suicide. Below is a list of signs of suicide based on research, however the signs are different for each person. 

Direct Verbal Signs:Indirect Verbal Signs:
“I’ve decided to kill myself.”
“I wish I were dead.”
“My family would be better off without me.”
“Pretty soon you won’t have to worry about me.”
Non-Verbal Signs: Event:
Giving away prized possessions.
Increased apathy.
Self-destructive acts like cutting oneself.
Change in interaction with family and friends.
Any previous suicide attempt.
Recent loss of a family member.
Victim of assault or bullying.
A recent health diagnosis.

Let us try to find the signs of suicide in the story below. Please read the statement below and list the signs that the person may be at risk for suicide.

You are a teacher and notice that Rachel, who is one of the more social students, has been very quiet lately and now sits in the back of the room. You ask other teachers about Rachel and they noticed that she started to skip basketball practice last week, and wears long sleeved clothing despite the warm spring days. Rachel is usually with her boyfriend Robbie (who she has been with for 6 months), but now she either eats lunch alone or not at all. It appears that Rachel and Robbie broke up.

Reflection

In the paragraph above there were several non-verbal signs (withdrawing, isolating), and a particular event (break-up) that the teacher noted that happened over the course of a week. While each sign in itself is concerning, it is seeing the big picture and the number of signs that may help the teacher approach Rachel and ask directly about suicide.  

Complete the activity and please give us your feedback here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/tyhsthree


Week 2 – September 6-12: Reasons for Living

What we will learn:

  • It is important to listen to the person’s story.
  • If undecided about suicide, the person at risk can just stay safe for now.

A reason for living is a sign of hope. You can identify hope when the person at risk shares some of their reasons for living when talking about suicide.  At first, the person’s story is going to be full of feelings about events that happened in their lives that brought them to this point in their life. 

As a caregiver, we are here to support those feelings of hope and share with the person what could be a reason for living. We might say, “Wow you have been talking about this and noticing you smile a little when you talk about it.”  Our job is to confirm with the person at risk if it is a sign of hope for them.

We can find the reasons for living by listening to the story they are sharing with us. It is important to remember the reasons for living belong to the person with thoughts of suicide. The reasons are not our own thoughts and ideas.

Listening to the story is really important. Without listening to the story we miss an opportunity to help the person with thoughts of suicide identify their reasons for living. We are really helping the person at risk make the shift from thinking about suicide to living, or staying safe for now.

Another way we can think about it is how uncertain a person at risk is about suicide. The smallest trace of uncertainly is enough to show they have some hope. Let us practice finding and supporting the reasons for living with a few phrases. 

Phrase 1: I don’t know what to do.

Response: You sound uncertain. Instead of making a big decision, we could stay safe for now?

Now let us try a more challenging statement.

Phrase 2: I just want the pain to go away.

Response: It sounds like there are times when there is more pain and less pain. Can we stay safe for now until we can find a way to lessen the pain?

Reflection

Often times the reasons for living are subtle. The reasons come in all forms and at times staying safe for now is an option when the person at risk is making those connections to life.

Complete the activity and please give us your feedback here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/tyhstwo


Week 1 – September 1-5: Attitudes about Suicide

What we will learn:

  • Everyone has attitudes about suicide.
  • Our own attitude may affect how we give support to someone with thoughts of suicide.

Let us challenge how we look at our own personal attitudes about suicide. We might be in communities with people who might have similar or different beliefs than our own. They might have different attitudes about suicide and this may change how they interact with persons with thoughts of suicide. 

Let us now consider that our attitudes are not right, or wrong. The important thing to remember is that it is not about having a right or wrong attitude. It is about caring for a person at risk for suicide. 

Imagine now that your attitude is on your shirt as you talk with a person at risk for suicide. Read the list of attitudes below and choose if you strongly agree or strongly disagree or you land somewhere in between. 

  • Suicide is wrong.
  • People have a right to suicide.
  • There are limits to what I will do to prevent suicide.
  • Anyone can be at risk of suicide.

Reflection:

How might our attitudes affect a person with thoughts of suicide who might be trying to reach out? People at risk also have attitudes about suicide and may be different from ours. If your attitude is that suicide is wrong, people at risk may either be drawn to you or decide your attitude is too different. Our attitudes affect how we support someone with thoughts of suicide and our willingness to help.

Complete the activity and please give us your feedback here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/tyhsone