On Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, there was a gatekeeper training for the University of Alaska- Integrated Suicide Prevention Initiative conducted by graduate students Jaime Spatrisano & Lace Louden. Their preamble at the training states that “No universal standards will prevent suicide” and “the Purpose of this training is to prepare you to provide help to someone at risk” Using the example of a responder to the scene of a heart attack, gatekeeper friends can only help as much as they can before the professionals arrive to the scene. Unfortunately “there is no guarantee that suicide can be prevented” in every possible way.
There’s a social stigma for those who seek help for suicidal thoughts. This could explain why some may refuse to get help, considering the options; calling a hotline, being taken away by the police or being institutionalized by a mental health professional. Some questions still remain for those who want to be helped, but don’t want to be put in a psychiatric hospital or a behavioral health ward. Would families understand and seek out mental health providers or would they send their children off to the mental institution instead?
Life after being institutionalized would not be considered easy. After being released, the stigma will follow them into their medical records, and if released to employers, could indirectly impact their careers as well. Even though HIPAA and the Americans with Disabilities Act make it illegal to fire a mentally ill or disabled person with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, employers could still choose to fire someone indirectly if they find other reasons to do so.
For those who are concerned for the wellbeing of a person who may be suicidal, talk to them about it, before you call the police. According to Lace Louden, “By law, the police will be forced to handcuff them,” like criminals, and then take them into custody.
The circumstances for suicide are different for everyone. No one was raised in the same environment, with the same people or the same schooling, with the same hair, eyes, and personality. Everyone is unique. The problem comes when people consider their individualities and believe that they are completely alone, that no one is there, willing, and caring enough to help them succeed. It’s as though, only they are falling through the cracks with no one to catch them.
As stated on one of the slides at the suicide prevention training, “People are not driven to suicide by a caring person who inquires as to whether or not they are suicidal. People may, however, be driven to suicide by an avoidance of the topic on the part of the listener from whom they need a concerned response.”
According to the University of Alaska Anchorage- Integrated Suicide Prevention Initiative (ISPI), 38 percent of students at this university have experienced depression & six percent of these students have seriously considered suicide. One of the warning signs for suicide is, in fact, depression. This being said, there are so many varying factors and situations to take into account before claiming that a person is suicidal. According to the ISPI website, the warning signs are change in mood, behaviors, appearance, performance, social Interactions, outlook, and focus. These could look like constant crying, recklessness, more tired than usual, hopelessness, drop in GPA, isolation, and preoccupation with death or violence.
There are more high risk/low risk warning signs and resources on this website from the Integrated Suicide Prevention Initiative. http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/ispi/FriendorRoommate/risk-factors-and-warning-signs.cfm
This website also states that “If your friend has any of the following (high risk) warning signs, you need to take action immediately:”
Some examples could be as simple as a text talking about suicide or wanting to hurt himself or herself. “For example, your friend may say or write, “You will be better off without me,” or “I’m just going to end it all.”
They could have already bought a gun, or broken a vase to cut their wrists. If they express any sort of plan to commit the act of killing themselves or preparing to do so, by writing a will or giving away prized possessions, then a friend should act immediately. Create an environment where they feel free to seek help and listen actively. This means using reflecting language and repeating back to them what they need to hear. Taken from the power point used in the Gatekeeper workshops, a friend’s response could be, “It sounds like…” or “So what you’re saying is…” Let them know that a friend is there and willing to listen to them. At the end of the conservation, either let them tell a family member or encourage them to call a hotline.
There are numbers listed on the link above, but for more accessible numbers, listed below is the Alaska Careline (24-hour Crisis Hotline) 1-877-266-4357. At this number there are people waiting to talk and listen to whatever someone has to say. Even if they don’t pick up, the call will be forwarded to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 hotline. With just a call away, no one is ever alone.