"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
September 13, 2013
Taking Suicide Seriously
by Sarah Hancock

This month is National Suicide Awareness month. Although many of us don't know where to begin on this topic, there are things to be done as far as helping recognize the signs of suicide.

Last year for suicide awareness month, my employer gave us red bracelets that read, "Not on my watch," reflecting the determination we had in recognizing the signs of suicide.

I have to admit that wearing that bracelet made me acutely aware of my training regarding the signs of people contemplating suicide. I was so keenly aware of this that a couple months later, I prevented someone I hardly knew from taking her life.

Take talk of suicide seriously.

It was a situation of which I'd become aware during a lunch break as I perused my Facebook page. The comment just seemed a little off. It made me uncomfortable and worry about her well-being. I went to my boss and told her what I'd read. I asked if I could have the afternoon off. She agreed that the woman needed help, and away I went.

Some 50-75% of people contemplating suicide mention it to someone.

I found this woman in a darkened apartment. Initially she acted as though nothing were out of the norm. She was grateful to have someone to speak to and we talked about life. She even laughed at some of my corny jokes.

Finally I got enough courage to ask her about her Facebook comment. She crumbled, thanking me for caring enough to act on my gut feeling — admitting that she'd put the comment out there to see if anyone even cared.

Listen.

I stayed with the woman, listening to her. We were together for more than two hours. The longer I was with her, the more I realized how serious she was about taking her life.

Don't be afraid to ask questions.

I asked her if she really was contemplating suicide. She said she was. I asked her how long she'd been thinking about it. I asked her if she had a plan. I asked her if she had means to carry out the plan. She did.

Don't be afraid to take action.

Some people may feel like it's none of their business to intervene. Others may feel like it's not their place. Let me clarify this. As a child of God, you are charged with watching over and protecting all of His children. Intervening when someone is showing signs of suicide is part of your life's calling. And intervening is easy to do.

In my friend's case, after listening and realizing she had contemplated it, come up with a plan and had means to carry out the plan, I gave her a hug. Then I told her she had two options: a.) come with me to the ER to get help or b.) if she chose not to come with me to the ER, I would call 911.

Don't be afraid to show you care.

Initially she was surprised I was taking this so seriously. I explained why.

Honestly, I don't think I would have had the courage to act, if I hadn't had previous experience. She decided that she would go with me to the ER. I explained that at the ER, a professional would evaluate her and decide whether or not she needed admission.

When we got to the hospital, she slapped on a smile and seemed like everything was just fine. She was even laughing and making jokes. But, I talked to the doctor and told him about her plan and how she had carefully gotten everything together to carry out the plan. She was admitted to the hospital.

When I visited her in the hospital, she admitted to me that the idea of going to a mental ward had scared her to death. She wanted to do whatever she could to not be locked up with the "crazies." I had to smile at that because I’d been scared to the hospital the first time.

She hugged me and said, "The patients here are normal. They are nice; they are real. They just have challenges like everyone else, but these people are actually trying to do something about it!" How insightful.

We need to recognize that when someone choses to get treated for mental illness, it is just as serious as someone choosing to get treatment for cancer. Both cancer and mental illness can lead to death, if left unchecked.

Support someone with mental illness as you would support someone with cancer. Get a team together and become a cheering squad. Love them and help them however you can. Help them chose to get treatment. Take it seriously.

For more information on the warning signs of suicide, see my article, "Speaking of the Unspeakable". When you know the signs and have the courage to act on them, you too can stand with determination to protect our Father's children and boldly proclaim, "Not on my watch!"


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About Sarah Hancock

Sarah Price Hancock, a graduate of San Diego State University's rehabilitation counseling Masters of Science program with a certificate psychiatric rehabilitation.

Having embarked on her own journey with a mental health diagnosis, she is passionate about psychiatric recovery. She enjoys working as a lector for universities, training upcoming mental health professionals. Sarah also enjoys sharing insights with peers working to strengthen their "recovery toolbox." With proper support, Sarah knows psychiatric recovery isnít just possible ó itís probable.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Sarah served a Spanish-speaking and ASL mission for the LDS Church in the Texas Dallas Mission. She was graduated from Ricks College and BYU. Sarah currently resides in San Diego and inherited four amazing children when she married the man of her dreams in 2011. She loves writing, public speaking, ceramics, jewelry-making and kite-flying ó not necessarily in that order.

NAMI San Diego's Fall Keynote Address: Living in Recovery with Schizoaffective Disorder

Having recently moved into a new ward, she currently serves as a visiting teacher.

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