Suicide Prevention Awareness and Hope Kits
September was Suicide Prevention Awareness month. Suicide is a highly stigmatized topic that often results in avoidance, discomfort, and misunderstanding. Shockingly, in 2019 suicide was responsible for more than 47,500 deaths… that’s about one death every 11 minutes. In 2019, around 12 million Americans reported seriously considering suicide (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). So, if you are having suicidal thoughts, you are not alone! However, it is crucial that you do not remain stuck and alone with your suicidal thoughts. Our minds can be the loneliness place of all, but there are people out there who care for you and professionals that can help you find stabilization.
Just because we aren’t talking about suicide does NOT mean it isn’t happening all around us. It’s in our schools, our jobs, our towns, it affects our families, our friends, our colleagues. Talking about suicide from an informed and compassionate perspective can reduce the stigma surrounding death by suicide and it has the potential to save lives! A misconception that we often hear is, “If I bring up suicide to a loved one, what if I’m the one who plants that idea in their minds?” Your loved one likely HAS considered suicide before you even noticed any warning signs. Having suicidal thoughts is a scary and desolate place to be in one’s mind. So asking questions and listening with an empathic ear is one of the absolute best things that you can do for a family member, friend, colleague, or peer that you suspect might be suicidal. Don’t avoid the conversation in fear of implanting the thought—it’s been there.
The following are important warning signs to look out for and may indicate someone is considering suicide listed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2021):
If a person talks about:
Having no reason to live
Being a burden to others
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
Withdrawing from activities
Isolating from family and friends
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions
Loss of interest
When working with individuals struggling with suicidal ideation, one of my most favorite activities is to create a hope box with clients. Essentially, the Hope Box/Kit is a tool that helps to instill hope—something that is lacking in individuals considering suicide. A Hope Box is a literal box that you can decorate and place pictures/joyful memories, quotes, mementos, and drawings inside. I also encourage my clients to write down a list of people and their phone numbers that they feel comforted and supported by along with the suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255). Finally, I encourage clients to write down a few coping skills that can be helpful when they are feeling especially distressed, such as a cold ice pack, paced breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. The cool thing about the Hope Box/Kit is that it can be a physical box, or you can create a virtual Hope Kit in your phone. It can be especially convenient to have this reminder on your phone because it’s with you wherever you go, and it’s a helpful prompt when working toward stabilization. Perhaps you and your loved one can create a Hope Box/Kit together.
See the example below:
This post is dedicated to anyone who is considering suicide: your story is not over. There are people out there who care for you. And the intensity of your suicidal thoughts will pass with time—hold on. Call your people, listen to your favorite music, reflect on joyful moments of life, and use helpful coping skills. It’s not your time yet. The world needs you. And when you feel like giving up, remember all the reasons why you have been holding on for all this time.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2021, September). Risk factors, protective factors, and warning signs. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from https://afsp.org/risk-factors-protective-factors-and-warning-signs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 30). Facts about suicide. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/index.html.
This blog post was written by Green Door Therapy therapist Olivia Houlihan, MS.