September is here and that means Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is upon us. It’s a cause that is very near and dear to my heart and one that I will always advocate for. It is a month to remember the lives lost, the millions of people who struggle, and those that have been impacted. Although mental health and suicide prevention is important to address year-round, this month provides a dedicated time for people, organizations, and communities to join their voices and share that there is HOPE, HELP is available, and HEALING is possible!
The theme of this post is CONNECTION. According to the CDC, connectedness may protect against suicidal behaviors. Connection decreases isolation and encourages healthy coping behaviors. Connection can be found within oneself, within relationships, and within community.
CONNECTION FOR OURSELVES. Connection is not just nice to have, but it is essential to health and well-being. People with meaningful social connections have less stress, better sleep, healthier habits and behaviors, a sense of belonging, and better overall health that can lead to a longer life. Connecting can be as deep as a heart-to-heart conversation, or as simple as sharing a “hello” and a smile. Meaningful connections come from people like family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Connection can look like someone willing to help you with a task or someone who listens and validates your feelings. Maybe someone can give you a different perspective than your own or provide advice and support for something you are struggling with. While there are no official guidelines to forming new connections, here are some suggestions for finding and fostering connection with others.
- Start a conversation. Talk to people that you already know and build upon that relationship. Take the time to authentically get to know your co-workers.
- Join a club or enroll in a class that intrigues you. The people that will be there will already share a common interest with you.
- Get involved in your community. Attend events and do things that you have not tried before.
- Explore opportunities to serve and help others. Many organizations offer volunteer opportunities that can give you the chance to contribute to something that you find important.
Sometimes it is hard to know when you need to connect with someone to support you with your mental health. Seek help during times of struggle with loneliness or isolation by reaching out to a friend, a family member, a health care provider or by using the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
CONNECTING WITH LOVED ONES. If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, connecting with them can be the difference in getting them the help they need. Talking to a loved one about mental health and suicide can be uncomfortable, but it is also one of the best ways to prevent it. We can all take action to have these conversations with someone who may be suicidal by using these five action steps from #BeThe1To.
- Ask. Findings suggest that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce suicidal ideation.
- Keep them safe. Knowing the answers to the questions can tell us about the imminence and severity of danger the person is in.
- Be there. Connecting and limiting their isolation has shown to be a protective factor against suicide.
- Help them connect. Work with them to develop a safety plan to guide them through crisis, keep them safe, and get them help.
- Stay connected. Make sure to follow up with them to see how they’re doing. This is a great time to see if there is anything else that you can do to support them.
CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY. While we trust our closest friends, family and loved ones, the broader community where we live, work and play also contribute to our feeling of connection. Communities can provide us with an emotional connection with people who share similar experiences. It can also bring a feeling of belonging, a sense of support, and a way to have our voices heard and valued by a wider group of people. Surrounding people and families with neighborhoods, businesses, and services is a critical way to support every person. Communities that work collectively in an intentional and proactive way is vital to creating the changes needed to increase social connectedness and belonging.
While formal programs and policies can be impactful, the norms and culture of how we engage one another, significantly influence social connection. In addition to this culture, here are additional ideas that organizations and communities can consider.
- Cultivate values of kindness, respect, service, and commitment to one another.
- Model connection values in positions of leadership and influence.
- Create opportunities and spaces for social connection.
- Offer community-based education, skill-building classes, and encourage attendance at social events and volunteerism.
- Actively seek and build partnerships with a variety of community institutions, like schools, health organizations, and workplaces. This can create a culture of connection with the broader community and support those who may be struggling with isolation, their mental health, or having thoughts of suicide.
- Know what supports are available for people who need it and provide resources and support to promote mental health and well-being and prevent suicide.
- Expand conversations on the importance of social connections where we live, work, learn and play.
CONNECTION TO HOPE AND HEALING. When your mental health is off, it is important to find the help that is right for you. Finding hope and healing can be found in many places and comes in many forms to give you the type of support that you need. People you already have a connection with is often a good place to start. This could be your friends and family, a co-worker, your primary care doctor, or someone else that you can trust. Sometimes it is nice to know you are not alone in your struggle. Having peer support can be a great way to connect with others that may have similar experiences as you. If you are unsure about what to do and need to talk to someone, try a local or national phone line to get assistance. This could be calling one of Minnesota’s warm lines or attending a support group. They have trained counselors available to speak with you or your loved one and assist. Professional help can make a big difference, but sometimes it is hard to know where to start. Ask for referrals from your family, friends, physician, or other people you trust. Another starting point is to call the number on the back of your insurance card. They can help you identify what providers are a part of your plan.
People finding hope and healing is happening every single day. Exploring stories of how others have found hope and healing can also be a powerful way to learn how others have found ways to cope with life’s struggles. Even if you’re not sure that you would benefit from help, it can’t hurt to explore your different possibilities.
Until next month, stay happy, healthy and safe! ~Sally~