Ask the Experts by Amelia Lehto
Q: With what seems to be a rise in teen suicide, both across the country and locally, what should we know as parents, friends, community members, to help change this frightening trend?
A: In the past year suicide has made headlines many times, for not only the losses of iconic rock stars but also the tragic losses of our friends, neighbors and loved ones. Suicide also made headlines as the focal point of rap artist, Logic’s, record-breaking hit “1-800-273-8255” featuring Khalid and Alessia Cara. What inspired a telephone number to be the title of a rap song, you may ask? It happens to be the 24/7 direct phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The American Association of Suicidology reported that suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds in 2015 and the 2nd leading cause of death for youth aged 10-14 years old. Logic’s fanbase is primarily made up of today’s youth, who found meaning in his work and have reached out to share their stories with him. Logic set out to make an impact and received permission to highlight the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has seen calls increase by 50 percent since the song’s release nearly a year ago. Logic’s message of suicide prevention has been highlighting the need for help-seeking behavior. We, as community members, as loved ones of those struggling and maybe as someone who struggles themselves can replicate this.
First; we need to take the situation seriously, be aware of sudden changes in behavior or moods and be willing to be their support and/or to link them to support. If you’re suffering yourself with suicidal thoughts tell someone you trust or call for help. Second; ask clearly and directly if the person is thinking about suicide. You will never plant the idea of suicide. For ourselves we may not recognize the thoughts as suicidal, they may appear as overwhelming suffering, and you want to end that suffering. Or, those moments of “I just can’t do this anymore,” which often persist for an extended period. Third; to assess intent, ask the individual if s/he has a plan, access to lethal means (pills, gun, etc.), or has decided when to act. If the means are available, can they be safely removed and placed in the care of another person or police department. And, finally, offer the person hope because these suicidal thoughts and feelings will pass. There is help available and people who care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Offer to connect them with emergency department, their doctor or to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 or text “LISTEN” to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line, for crisis and suicide intervention services.
Amelia Lehto is the Resource & Crisis Help Coordinator for Suicide Prevention at Common Ground. Her position serves several functions ultimately supporting those intimately affected by suicide. She serves on the board of directors of the American Association of Suicidology, statewide nonprofit, Six Feet Over and on the advisory council for Kevin’s Song. Amelia can be reached at email@example.com. Kevin’s Song is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.