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The power of conversation: how to talk about suicide

V.F.W campaign shines a light on Veteran suicides

With news coverage surrounding the discussion of suicide, prevention organizations remind people of the power of conversation.

"A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn't mean that help isn't wanted," helpguide.org writes on their suicide prevention page.

The resource explains "people who take their lives don't want to die--they just want to stop hurting."

Helpguide.org expresses that if someone believes a friend or family member is considering suicide it may be difficult to bring up the topic. The resource says talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings could actually save a life.

One of the suicide prevention tips suggests speaking up. If one shares concern about a person and sees any warning signs it is important to offer immediate help-- the sooner the better.

"Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone," Helpguide.org says. "But if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask."

The logic behind the strategy is that showing that one cares doesn't make a person suicidal, bringing it up won't make matters worse and may even take the burden off of the other person. A conversation gives a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings and can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings.

Helpguide.org outlines conversation starters and do's and don'ts. The website stresses not to act shocked, to not take on blame, to take the person seriously and offer hope.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education released a statement regarding the topic in the news to provide insight on how to approach the overall discussion of suicide.

"Research has shown that when there is news about celebrity deaths by suicide, there is an increased risk of copycat suicide," their statement read.

SAVE shared key messages on how to talk about suicide rates.

"While suicide rates are increasing, there is no epidemic of suicide. We do not want people to panic given the media coverage on the topic, but rather use this as an opportunity to raise awareness and educate people about the realities of suicide and that it is preventable in most cases."

Their website also suggests talking about the topic of suicide like any other health condition.

The statement further outlines suicide as a public health crisis and asks people to learn the warning signs so they know when to start a conversation.

"Your ability to identify the signs will better prepare you to take action and could help save a life."

Take 5 to Save Lives offers an interactive page to learn the warning signs of suicide. The National Council for Suicide Prevention launched the five step resource to help others learn the signs, do one's part, practice self-care, reach out and learn how to spread the word.

The first step, learning the signs, says if someone is exhibiting hopelessness, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge, engaging in risky activities, feeling trapped, or withdrawing from society it may be best to contact a hotline or mental health professional. Emergency warning signs include someone threatening to hurt or kill themselves or someone talking or writing about death.

The World Health Organization estimates about 800,000 people die from suicide every year. To combat the issue, the agency says it must be a collaborative effort across sectors such as education, labor, agriculture, business, law, politics, healthcare and the media.

"No single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide," WHO adds.

The conversation doesn't have to just be with you either.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available all 24 hours at 1-800-273-8255. It is a national network of local crisis centers that serves to provide emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. For those who are confused about how to have a conversation with a loved one can also call the number or share the resource.

Suicide prevention organizations express thoughts of suicide do not only affect the mentally ill. Life can impact different people in different ways so knowing the signs and talking about those impacts could help prevent a tragedy.

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