September is Suicide Prevention Month with many events and initiatives bringing attention to this far too common experience that devastates individuals and families. Suicides among farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers are higher than the general population. I’m guessing most of you reading this article have been impacted or know someone who has been impacted by suicide in some way.
I want to briefly touch on three aspects of suicide awareness: Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention.
First Prevention. This is all about noticing that someone is struggling and may be suicidal. This can be difficult as many people hide their pain well. Things to look for in people that could be a warning sign for suicide include: depressed mood, giving away prized possessions or “tying up loose ends”, a decline in physical appearance or the general upkeep of the farm, withdrawing/isolating, change in mood and/or activity level, statements about death, suicide and/or having no hope. Warning signs can also be situational. For example if a person has recently gone through a divorce, financial crisis, or diagnosis of an illness. Suicide prevention for ourselves and others also means taking care of ourselves physically, surrounding ourselves with supportive people, focusing on helpful thinking, and engaging in things that feed our soul or bring us joy.
Second let’s dive into Intervention. What do we do when we see or sense that someone is struggling? Think of it like this, if we noticed someone at an accident scene bleeding, we wouldn’t pass them by without at least calling 911 or rendering aid. In the case of potential suicide, people are “emotionally bleeding” and need help. Let the person you are worried about know what you are noticing that is causing concern and then ask the question – “Are you thinking of suicide?” or “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” The next step is getting them to help which could include calling 988, 911, taking them to a local clinic, emergency department, or counseling agency.
Third, what do I mean by Postvention. Postvention is about supporting people who have been impacted by suicide. Those who have loved ones die by suicide are automatically at higher risk of attempting suicide themselves. They need support! Be a listening ear. Invite them to spend time with you. Engage them in events in the community, church, etc. Dealing with a loved one dying by suicide is a unique and tragic grief.
This is just a quick snapshot of these three areas of suicide awareness. I encourage you all to access further training such as QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) or safeTALK. 988 is also a great resource and can be called or texted to anytime 24/7! By working together we can make an impact!