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Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: Supporting those in crisis – especially during COVID-19

As individuals, families and communities continue to cope with COVID-19, there has never been a more important time to check in on loved ones and offer support. 

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. Social distancing and the fear of the unknown can cause emotional distress and anxiety, and lead to feelings of isolation – but help is available. 

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health is joining other organizations during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September to highlight actions everyone can take, during the pandemic and beyond, to prevent suicide, promote healing and provide hope. 

“Social distancing does not mean social isolation,” said Devereux Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical/Medical Officer Yolanda Graham, M.D. “Even if you cannot physically be with the ones you love, you can still connect via social media, text, phone or video chat. If a friend or family member appears to be struggling, take the time to reach out and ask how they are doing – it can make a world of difference.” 

Recognizing warning signs during social distancing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2018, more than 48,000 Americans died by suicide, with an average of one person taking their own life every 11 minutes. 

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, some of the warning signs of suicide may be difficult to distinguish during times of physical distancing (e.g., changes in energy levels; increased alcohol and drug use; changes in sleeping habits), but there are actions and behaviors to watch for, including: 

  • Changes in tone, language and time of day when texting, talking or posting online
  • Failing to respond to calls or texts
  • Changes in the frequency and content of what they share online 

#BeThe1To save a life

During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is encouraging the public to help raise awareness and combat the stigma associated with this tragic loss of life by spreading the word on social media about actions we can all take to prevent suicide – using the hashtag #BeThe1To. 

The #BeThe1To campaign provides five steps to help someone who is struggling: 

  1. Ask: Ask the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?” This communicates that you are open to talking about suicide in non-judgmental and supportive way. Other questions include, “How do you hurt?” and “How can I help?”
  2. Be there: While being physically present for someone may not be possible right now, there are other ways you can “be there.” Speak with your loved one on the phone/video phone, by text or through various online platforms.
  3. Keep them safe: Find out information to establish immediate safety. Ask your friend or family member about their actions leading up to this point, as well as any future plans.
  4. Help them connect: Connect your loved one with community resources and supports, and help them develop a safety plan.
  5. Follow up: Ask if there is anything else you can do to help reduce the risk of suicide. 

“You should never underestimate the value of showing up for someone,” Graham explained. “Offering a friend or family member the opportunity to talk about their thoughts and feelings can help reduce the risk of suicide. Start the conversation, ask the questions, offer your support and remind your loved one that they are not alone.” 

Suicide prevention resources

If you are in crisis, reach out to a family member, friend or doctor, or take advantage of the following resources: 

Devereux’s specialty mental health services

Devereux has a history of helping individuals and families in need. 

We provide innovative programs and services for children, adolescents and adults with emotional and behavioral disorders in community and residential settings. Diagnoses served include anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, psychotic disorders and disruptive behavior disorders. 

Learn more about our specialty mental health programs and services.


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