Suicide Prevention Month: Prevention Is the First Step Towards Healing
September 2023 · Forward in Hope
When it comes to behavioral health, it’s tempting to focus on symptoms rather than the causes. But as Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
In other words, we need to look at prevention – because it is the first step towards healing.
Among the many programs and services Saint Francis provides are those that support mental and behavioral health for young people and adults. Those behavioral health programs are also tied to programs such as Intensive In-Home Prevention Services, which build on families’ strengths and capabilities to resolve issues that place children at risk. Our efforts help families better provide for the health and security of their children by teaching better communication and parenting skills, providing substance use treatment, and reinforcing positive life choices.
These are all important skills than can also help mitigate potential risks of self-harm. Even so, it’s incumbent upon all of us to communicate with those who might be struggling. We are our brother’s (sister’s) keeper. By being present and alert, we can play an essential role in suicide prevention.
If prevention is the first step towards healing, then connection is the first step towards prevention.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “many factors can increase the risk for suicide or protect against it. Suicide is connected to other forms of injury and violence. For example, people who have experienced violence, including child abuse, bullying, or sexual violence have a higher suicide risk. Being connected to family and community support and having easy access to healthcare can decrease suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”
Unfortunately, many children and youth come into our care after having experienced those factors. Yet we can provide that “community support” by watching behaviors and looking for the signs that a person might at risk might exhibit:
- Talking about being a burden
- Being isolated
- Increased anxiety
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Increased substance use
- Looking for a way to access lethal means
- Increased anger or rage
- Extreme mood swings
- Expressing hopelessness
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Talking or posting about wanting to die
- Making plans for suicide
Again, connection is key to prevention. Is there room in your life to connect with a person at risk for self-harm. Is there room to be “your brother’s keeper”?
A good place to start is the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
In the meantime, listen for statements about self-harm. If you hear it, seek help immediately. SFM has resources for a client in crisis. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 988, and offers 24/7, free and confidential support for persons in distress and crisis.