As the holidays draw near, I am filled by a sense of excitement, knowing I will soon celebrate with close family and friends. I hope that you too are looking forward to the holidays as we say goodbye to 2018 and ring in the new year.
Unfortunately, the holidays can be a difficult time for some of us, and for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s the recent loss of a loved one, failing at something important to us, financial strain, illness, or even dealing with the change in sunlight—the holidays can be a challenge. Life does not always give us grapes and at times, it brings us to our knees. We all deal with this differently and sadly, too many people are struggling to find solutions.
Suicide has been in the news lately more than any of us would like, as seemingly happy celebrities such as Jonathan Williams and Anthony Bourdain have ended their lives. It sadly touched our family this year, when the father of one of my son Tino’s close friends died by suicide. We were filled with a sense of shock: how could this have happened? As much as we want to provide help and support to the people we know and love, we never quite know when suicide is nearby and those affected by it are left wondering what they could have done to prevent tragedy.
Inspired by the memory of the friend our family lost, I recently attended an amazing event called “Full of Hope,” which was hosted by Forefront, an organization at the University of Washington, that focuses on suicide prevention. Forefront is a local Seattle organization committed to educating individuals, companies and schools on preventing suicide. They have trained over 50,000 professionals in our state regarding suicide prevention, have championed nine state laws for prevention, and provide resources to over 30 community organizers who are working to educate their communities and give hope. So many of us, directly or indirectly, have been affected by or are dealing with the impact of this horrible disease.
I learned a lot during the event. One of the most shocking facts of the evening was that suicide is the leading cause of death in children aged 10 to 14 and is the second cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds. I also learned that suicide rates often rise during times of political tension and economic downturn.
I am so grateful to have found this powerful resource in our community that is dedicated to spreading awareness about this 100 percent preventable disease. They educate children, teachers and adults on how to look for signs, ask the right questions, and guide people toward the right resources. I have begun to use Forefront to educate myself so that I can be there for anyone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts.
If you are looking to learn more as well—whether it be for yourself or to help those around you—I highly recommend attending one of Forefront’s events and considering making a donation to this great local organization. More details are available here and below:
L – E – A – R – N
Look for Signs
- Hopelessness, depression, anxiety
- Feeling s/he is a burden to others
- Social withdrawal, isolation
- Sleep problems
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Loss, rejection or humiliation
- Giving away possessions
- Talking about death
Empathize and Listen
- Remain calm and offer compassion
- Avoid judgment or advice
- When in doubt, just listen
- “This must be so hard for you.”
Ask Directly About Suicide
- Asking won’t put the idea in their mind, instead, it shows you care
- Asking offers them a chance to share their pain
- “Sometimes when people feel hopeless, they are thinking about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?”
Remove the Danger
- Lock up and limit access to medications and firearms
Next Level of Care
- Call 800-273-8255, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7
- For Veterans support, press 1
- Immediate danger? Call 911
- Stay with the person
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please know you are not alone. There are many of us that would love to support you and listen without judgment. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is just one phone call away at 1-800-273-8255.
I hope you have found this article helpful in educating yourself about suicide and I hope you will join me in supporting the critical work that Forefront is doing in our local community.
-Written by Enrico Pozzo