This is the third in a series of posts for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. You can read part 2 of the series here.
When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with videos about severe storms. I listened carefully as people shared their stories about what they saw and heard in the moments before a storm hit. A few people were caught unaware, but most people recounted that they saw dark clouds on the horizon, noticed that the winds picked up or died down quickly, or even saw animals acting differently than usual. As these were the days before I could view weather radar on demand, I kept these signs in mind as I played and worked outside, ready to take action at a moment’s notice.
In a similar way, knowing the warning signs of suicide can help us be better prepared to help a friend or family member if the need arises. There are some very evident signs:
- talking about death or dying
- expressing that they have no hope for the future or feel helpless
- making plans to die or researching ways to die
There are some more subtle signs that a person is considering suicide or at risk:
- changes in behavior, such as sleeping much more or less than usual
- withdrawing from everyday life activities, including spending time with friends or family
- engaging in risky behaviors, such as excessive drugs/alcohol use, driving too fast, or getting in fights
Then there are signs we might not immediately recognize:
- giving away prized possessions
- an extreme change in mood, going from down or depressed to seemingly happy or at peace
Being aware of warning signs of suicide increases the likelihood that you will be able to notice if something is changing with a friend or family member and that you will be able to take appropriate action to help. If you notice any of these signs in a friend or family member, don’t be afraid to start a discussion about what you’ve noticed. You are not putting an idea in their head by asking a question. In fact, you may be offering them a chance to share their feelings and express a need for help.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, dial 911 and request immediate help. You can also call or text 988 and speak to a trained professional about your concerns. They will be able to provide assistance and connect you with appropriate resources.
Starting some conversations is easy: “How’s the farm?” “Did you see the game last week?” “Can you believe the weather?!” They’re simple questions, pleasantries really, that start conversations about things most of us are experiencing together.
But how do you start an uncomfortable conversation? How do you tell a friend or family member that you’re concerned about their wellbeing? This is the second in a series of posts for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and today we’ll discuss some of the ways we can start conversations about mental health.
- Consider your approach. Choose a place and time where the person won’t feel like they’re being ambushed or put on the spot.
- Use “I” statements. Let the person know what why you’re bringing up this subject by saying things like, “I’ve noticed that…” or “I’m concerned about…” This can make the person feel less likely to feel defensive, and more likely to want to address your concerns.
- Listen. Now is not the time to dole out advice or pass judgment. Ask questions when appropriate, but simply let the person talk. Pauses in the conversation can be helpful as well, as they may give you or the other person time to collect your thoughts before responding.
What comes after the conversation? There are different ways a conversation can play out, and it’s helpful to think about possible next steps.
- Your friend is okay right now. Sometimes people go through rough patches, and while they’re tough to navigate, people can bounce back with a little time and support. If this is the case, maybe offer some help (a meal, run their kids to practice, etc) and give yourself a reminder to check in again in a few days or weeks.
- They want help now. Maybe they have been struggling and are grateful for help. In crisis situations, calling 911 (for suicide emergencies) or 988 (for suicidal thoughts or other mental health concerns) is appropriate for immediate help. In non-crisis situations, you can also contact 211, check out the Ohio Mental Health Resource Guide, or the Farm Stress Certified directory for other contacts.
- They don’t want your help. Not everyone is ready to accept help or recognize that they need support. Let the person know that you’re there to support them now or in the future, and keep the lines of communication open. You never know when someone might need you down the road!
Starting certain conversations can be difficult, but it’s worth feeling the discomfort if it means reaching out to someone who may need your help!
September means a lot of things: schools are in session, football season is getting underway, fairs are wrapping up, and harvest is just around the corner. Since 2008, September has also been a time to reflect on mental health and spend time building awareness of suicide prevention. This is the first in a four-part series on the topic of suicide prevention. In today’s post, we’ll look at the statistics that surround suicide in rural areas and the agriculture community.
According to the CDC, the rate of suicide has increased 46% in rural areas as compared to 27.3% in urban or suburban areas. Imagine a room of 100 people (think of a crowded local restaurant on a Friday night, or a small church on Sunday morning), then imagine adding 46 more people to that room. That visual represents the increase in the rate of suicide in our rural and ag communities. This can be a shocking fact to some people, because there’s a lot of stigma that keeps us from talking about this subject and sharing facts.
There are a lot of reasons this number is going up. Part of it may be that reporting guidelines have changed, and we’re simply seeing a clearer picture of what is happening in our communities. At the same time, it’s more likely that stressors such as economic uncertainty, cultural pressures, and lack of preventative care have contributed to these increased rates.
Suicide is an uncomfortable topic, but having a true picture of the magnitude of the problem is the first step in addressing the issue and helping friends, family, and neighbors who may be considering suicide. Throughout the rest of the month, we’ll look at ways we can build our awareness and share resources with others if needed.
If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, call 911 immediately. You can also reach the Suicide and Crisis Prevention lifeline by dialing or texting 988, and a trained professional will help you through the crisis and connect you with resources and other support.
Do you know how to recognize signs of changing mental health in your friends or family members? Would you feel comfortable asking someone about their mental health? Join the Farm Stress team in a Mental Health First Aid class to learn about mental health and how to help in a crisis situation.
These virtual trainings are held on Zoom. You will receive access to self-paced learning modules approximately two weeks before the training, and then join some of OSU Extension’s Mental Health First Aid instructors for an instructor-led session.
Register for an adult Mental Health First Aid class here
Register for a Youth Mental Health First Aid course here (This class is designed for adults who work with young people ages 12-18).
Want to share this information with others? Click here for a copy of our registration flyer!
“The topic (mental health) has long been stigmatized in farming communities. We’re tough. We can handle things on our own. We don’t need to be all touchy-feely, talking about our emotions or our problems. Things need to get done. Animals need our care. Crops need to be harvested. Farmers would much rather push it all down inside and keep going.” This is a powerful quote from an article published by Farm and Dairy. In this article, the author features two stories of farm families impacted by suicide. Take a moment to read this piece written by author Rachel Wagoner.
As Suicide Prevention Month draws to a close for 2022, we want to remind you that if you are experiencing mental health challenges (anxiety, depression) or mental health emergencies (suicidal thoughts), YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are many people who are ready, willing, and able to help you find the resources you need to feel better. Mental health challenges can be overwhelming, but it is important to know that with the right help, recovery is both possible and probable!
Consider the following resources:
- 988- Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Call or text this number to be connected to a trained counselor who will talk with you and help you connect with the right resources
- 741741- Crisis Text Line. Text this number to be connected to a trained counselor.
- Ohio Mental Health Resource Guide– click on your county to see a list of resources available in your area
- Ohio Careline- dial 1-800-720-9616 to be connected to a behavioral health professional who will offer emotional support to anyone experiencing a personal or family crisis
If you are interested in raising awareness of mental health and bringing Mental Health First Aid or QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) trainings to your community or organization, please reach out to Bridget at email@example.com
Words can pack a punch. Choosing nice words to give a compliment can brighten someone’s day, while negative words can incite anger or sadness.
The same is true when we discuss suicide. Many words that we have used to discuss suicide in the recent past are stigmatizing, meaning they can add a sense of blame or shame towards people who have attempted or died by suicide. This can make it difficult to talk about suicide, and it is important to talk about suicide! Over the last several years, there has been a push to change the language around suicide so we can discuss the topic without adding to the stigma.
Phrases to change, limit, or avoid:
- “Committed suicide”- have you noticed that we use phrases like “commit a sin” or “commit a crime?” While it might not be our intention, saying a person committed suicide can imply that they did something selfish or sinful and cast blame.
- “Successful suicide”- we often use the word success when we’re talking about something that is positive, such as successfully meeting a goal or running a successful business. There is nothing positive about suicide.
Phrases to use instead:
- “died by suicide”- this phrase does not add any shame or blame, but simply and clearly explains what happened.
- “completed suicide”- this phrase is also a way to simply and clearly state what happened.
Changing the words you use to talk about suicide might be difficult at first. You might accidentally slip up and use stigmatizing language instead of non-stigmatizing words. Simply correct yourself and practice using the new words. It might take a few tries to feel comfortable switching out the words you use, but it will go a long way in helping break down some of the stigma that surrounds suicide.
(If you or a loved one are experiencing a suicide crisis or other mental health crisis, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by simply dialing 988. You can also text HELP to 741741 to reach the Crisis Textline. If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health emergency or substance use emergency, dial 911.)
Every year, the month of September is set aside for us to raise awareness for suicide prevention and to remember those we have lost. This month can be difficult for many of us to navigate, but it is also an opportunity for us to offer HOPE to someone in need.
It is important during this time to remember the resources that are available to us. The Suicide Lifeline has a new, easy-to remember number (simply dial 988) and has expanded to offer support to individuals experiencing any type of mental health crisis. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health crises, 988 is the number to call! A trained professional will walk with you during the crisis and can connect you with additional resources in your community.
While it is great to have resources like 988 and other local hotline numbers (which you can find under the Get Help Now! tab of this page), studies overwhelmingly show that prevention and early intervention are far more impactful than crisis intervention. This means it is crucial that we become familiar with warning signs of suicide.
Here is a list of common warning signs that a person may be considering suicide. It is important to note that many of the changes in behaviors or emotions will likely happen over a period of four or more weeks.
- Avoiding friends or family
- Confused thinking or struggling to concentrate
- Expressing excessive sadness or worry
- Overuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol
- Thinking or talking about suicide
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Aggressive or passive behavior out of character to them
- Changes in appetite
You can find more information on potential signs here.
Together as a community, we can come together to support friends, family, and even strangers that may be struggling. There are classes to help educate at the very basic level to help spot warning signs and symptoms, and how to support before a crisis happens. Mental Health First Aid is a great program that OSU Extension offers for FREE right now, both in-person and virtually. Register here go.osu.edu/farmstress22mhfa
Would you recognize the signs of worsening mental health in your friends, family members, neighbors, or colleagues? Would you know how to react and help if someone was experiencing a mental health crisis?
Mental Health First Aid is a course designed to help you become aware of mental health challenges and teaches you how to respond in both crisis and non-crisis situations. We currently have trainings scheduled through the end of 2022, and will soon be announcing our 2023 training dates.
These are blended virtual courses, where participants complete approximately 90 minutes of online self-paced learning before attending a six hour-long instructor-led training on Zoom. You can get more information and register for a training by clicking here.
If you have a large group that would like to host a training, or if you would prefer an in-person training, please reach out to Bridget at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has been live for nearly a month now, and individuals and organizations across the state of Ohio are working diligently to share information about this resource with friends, family, and neighbors.
This new, easy-to-remember number can be used by anyone in the United States who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, emotional distress, thoughts of harming others, or substance use concerns. When you dial 988, you will be connected with a trained counselor who will help you reduce the stress of the crisis and find local resources to help support you in the future.
Bridget Britton, Behavioral Health Field Specialist for Ohio State University Extension, recently sat down and recorded a PSA that you can use to spread the word about 988. Watch this short video and then share on your social media pages today! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fse9ryxGjz4&ab_channel=OSUSouthCenters
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been in existence since 2005. The Lifeline has been an invaluable resource for people to use in a suicide crisis situation, and now a new initiative has made it even easier for people to connect with trained counselors in times of distress. Anyone in the United States can now call or text 988 to reach the Lifeline when they are in a state of emotional distress, having thoughts of suicide, having thoughts of harming others, or having substance use concerns.
In addition to the new, easy-to-remember number, the Lifeline has expanded the services it offers. Traditionally, the Lifeline primarily focused on supporting individuals experiencing a suicide crisis situation. It now also offers support for someone who would like to talk through the distress they are experiencing related to anxiety, depression, or substance use.
Just as when people called the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (which will continue to remain in service), a person who calls or texts 988 will be linked to a trained professional such as a counselor, therapist, or social worker for support. These counselors are trained to reduce the stress of the challenge or crisis, provide emotional support, and link the caller to services in their local area for additional assistance. Research has shown that most calls to the Lifeline can be managed or resolved over the phone.
Help us break down the stigma of receiving support by promoting 988! There is no shame in seeking out support.
Here is a list of common signs a person may need to talk with a mental health professional:
- New or unusual fatigue
- Increased irritability
- Depression lasted more than 2 weeks
- Social isolation
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Difficulty following through with tasks at work or school
Most of these signs are compounded on top of each other and last for several weeks.
The switch to the new 988 number has been a work in progress for several years, and it will take some time to spread the word within our communities. You can help spread the word today by sharing this information on your personal or professional social media pages, or by visiting https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/partner-toolkit to find resources that can be shared at locations throughout your community.