By: Susan Browning Schulz
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1937, since then over 2,000 people have jumped to their deaths from this iconic spot. Of the thousands, only one percent has survived. One of those survivors, Kevin Hines, is now an advocate for suicide prevention and mental health. He often shares in his testimony that he and all 19 other survivors had the same thought the moment their hands left the rails: instant regret. This truth tells us something about suicide. People who tragically choose to end their own lives, don’t really want to die; they just want their intense pain to end. Connection with each other is an integral part of relieving and healing deep hurts.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. Keys to helping people who are depressed and thinking the world would be better off without them is to remind them that suicide is a permanent solution to persistent, yet temporary challenges. There are many alternatives to alleviate the suffering they are experiencing. This article will focus on one of the most important—the power of connection—with community, professional help, and ultimately with God.
In the REBOOT First Responders course, we are taught how to respond to a suicidal person through the acrostic A.C.E. ASK questions. CARE enough to get them some help. ESCORT them to a professional.
Go a few steps further by:
- Educating yourself and others about the many treatments available to reduce and eliminate the symptoms that increase the risk of suicide. Read about the signs and symptoms of suicide. Warning signs aren’t always obvious, and they may vary from person to person. Exhibiting care and paying attention play a vital role.
- Asking uncomfortable questions such as, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” or “Are you thinking about suicide?” Offering an opportunity to your hurting friend to talk about his or her feelings can reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.
- Persuading the person to let you get help. You cannot, however, demand he or she get help, but again you can ask, “Will you go with me to get help?” If this doesn’t work call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org
- Referring to the appropriate resources in your area. This could be the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, a local crisis center, a local mental health professional or hospital emergency department. Ideally, you would escort the troubled person to the appropriate resource.
Try not to worry about overreacting or putting a strain on your relationship with the person you are trying to help. Remember, the safety of your friend or loved one is the most important thing to consider.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, connect with people you trust. Use the following messages as a starting point to send to a trusted contact (from the International Association for Suicide Prevention):
- Reach Out: “When you have a minute, can you contact me? I feel really alone and suicidal, and could use some support.”
- Contact a Loved One: “I don’t want to die, but I don’t know how to live. Talking with you may help me feel safe. Are you free to talk?”
- Express Your Feelings: “This is really hard for me to say, but I’m having painful thoughts and it might help to talk. Are you free?”
- Check in: “I’m struggling right now and just need to talk to someone—can we chat?”
The REBOOT Recovery program emphasizes the importance of staying connected with community and with God. Community and faith can be like a warm embrace, especially for those who’ve faced trauma. In times of struggle, a supportive community can offer a safe space to share, heal, and grow together. And when we rely on God, his ironclad promise stands: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).
Whether it’s taking the time to reach out to one another or holding on to the faith that there’s a plan beyond our understanding, these elements play a crucial role in the journey towards healing, resilience, and the prevention of suicide.