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The 411: With powerful social media campaigns like #BeThe1To, informative and original resources like the Suicide Prevention Toolkit, and collaborative relationships with respected organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is speaking out, leading a movement, and weakening the connection between domestic violence and suicide.
25% of women who are the victims of domestic violence attempt suicide, but this is just one of many statistics that show a possible connection between domestic violence and suicide, a connection the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) strives to break.
A SAMHSA-funded grant program launched by Link2Health Solutions, the NSPL’s mission is to provide free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis, no matter their age or background, through a variety of initiatives, including a national network of call centers connected to one phone number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which received 1.4 million calls in 2014 alone.
“The idea is that by stringing together crisis centers across the country to this single line, we can essentially extend a national safety net for people who could be at risk, and that safety net is a 24/7/365 accessible service from anywhere in the United States,” said Dr. John Draper, NSPL’s Project Director.
According to a paper published on MediaRadar.org, as many as 7,832 male and 1,958 female domestic violence-related suicides occur annually in the U.S.
Another one published in the Medscape Journal of Medicine called “Suicide and Domestic Violence: Could There Be a Correlation?” found out of 171 women interviewed, 69% experienced more than one form of domestic violence, out of those women, 62% were suffering from depression, and out of those women, 9.4% reported having current suicidal ideations.
And it’s not uncommon for children to feel the effects as well. According to OvercomingDarkness.com, research suggests there’s a two-to-five-fold increase in suicidal behavior for children exposed to domestic violence.
In order to combat this, a crucial component of the NSPL’s overall mission is to promote healthy relationships and teach people how to spot unhealthy ones.
“We know when people have healthy relationships and strong connections in their lives, their risks for all sorts of health problems, including suicide, go way down,” he said.
From knowing the warning signs to joining the fight yourself, Draper took us through the many facets of the NSPL.
In-depth and instructional resources are the backbone of the NSPL, and while it was hard to narrow it down, we’ve highlighted several of our favorites below. All you have to do is click the links and they’ll take you to each section.
Starting with the must-know basics, the NSPL’s list of key warning signs helps people recognize when someone is at risk for suicide.
Note: According to the NSPL, “the risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.”
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, so the NSPL released a series of graphics as part of #BeThe1To, a social media campaign that shows us how we all can play a role in suicide prevention and focuses on four important steps for helping someone in need.
“Research has shown that every single one of these steps makes a difference in saving lives. They’re relatively simple, and we wanted to communicate them in a simple way because they are something anyone can do,” Draper said.
While some might feel uncomfortable asking upfront questions, Draper told us people who have suicidal tendencies will be grateful that someone wants to know what they’re thinking and feeling, while those who don’t have suicidal tendencies won’t “get any ideas”.
“For those who are experiencing suicidal crisis, being asked directly gives them permission to talk about something that otherwise is very difficult to talk about with anyone,” he said.
You should also #BeThe1To ask:
Whether it’s managing prescription pills or limiting access to firearms, there are real actions people can take to keep someone in suicidal crisis safe, but perhaps the most influential is to just tell them how important their life is to you and that you want to assist them during this difficult time.
“Let them know you’re concerned about them and that you’d like to do whatever you can to keep them safe,” Draper said.
Like vocalizing your concerns is important, physically being with the person is equally important, making them feel less alone and more connected to others.
“Just be with them and stay with them in a nonjudgmental, supportive way,” he said.
The value of being there also goes hand in hand with helping the person at risk stay connected. Preventing someone from committing suicide isn’t a two-man job, so the NSPL encourages you to make sure they always have access to a support system. Is there anyone else they can talk to who they trust? If so, work with them on creating a list of family members, friends, therapists, and more.
Have regular follow-ups after the immediate crisis is resolved to show them there are still people who care and can help them in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
“What we want to do is bring in as many folks as we can to give that person some support. It could be friends or family members… whoever that person trusts and feels comfortable with could be an important support for them during this critical time, but certainly calling the NSPL and seeing a mental health practitioner is highly advisable and often can be really helpful,” Draper said.
Created to showcase the wide range of approaches to suicide prevention and helping people in crisis, such as what to say and what not to say, the Suicide Prevention Toolkit is another great tool in NSPL’s arsenal.
Some excerpts from the toolkit include:
“It’s important for us to equip people with information to help them become not only aware that there’s something they can do, but also give them information as to what exactly they can do,” he said.
One integral part of the toolkit is the Crisis Coping Plan, which is an easy way to keep track of what you can do when suicidal thoughts have you feeling overwhelmed and your emotions have altered your capability for coping.
“What the Coping Plan (or ‘Safety Plan’) can do is remind you that there’s quite a number of things you can do to reduce the intense emotional pain you are in at the moment, and that’s hard to remember and organize when you’re feeling overwhelmed in a crisis state,” Draper said.
Essential elements for creating your own safety plan include:
This kind of coping plan can also be particularly helpful for people in intimate partner violence situations.
“When they feel there’s no way out of a relationship characterized by power and control, sometimes having suicidal thoughts is a way for them to feel like they have some control over the situation (‘I have a way out’),” he said. “For persons who are threatened by their partners, the Coping Plan can give them healthy strategies to help them gain a little bit more control and take steps to hopefully get through and eventually out of the situation.”
Who are the three people you trust the most and can turn to during an emotional or physical emergency? What’s the process for getting through this emergency that works best for you? This is the intention of the My3 Suicide Prevention App.
Take your custom coping plan with you anywhere and pull it out anytime you’re feeling out of control so you can quickly contact the people in your support network or make use of actual resources that work for you.
The My3 Suicide Prevention App is available via the App Store or Google Play.
The NSPL knows it will take the strength of a good team in order to reach their ultimate goal, which is why they have a suicide prevention network of 165 crisis centers and other resources. Draper said when it comes to finding ways to deal with an abusive relationship, “There are no better experts than our friends at the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH).”
“From collaborating with organizations like the NDVH to the person who is suicidal, preventing suicide and finding hope is necessarily a collaborative effort,” he continued. “Some challenges are too big for any of us to handle alone. Through collaboration with our vast network of crisis centers, we can pool their collective knowledge and the lessons learned from researchers and experts across the country to establish the best practices in helping people who are suicidal.”
Other NSPL locators include:
While these professionals offer a variety of services, they approach each problem with the same objective: to provide a safe environment where they can inspire people in crisis to get the help they need without being forced to do so, especially when it comes to leaving an abusive relationship, which is when violence is most likely to occur.
It’s all comes down to the individual.
“Our job is to facilitate a compassionate and understanding connection with them that will allow them to believe in themselves and believe that hope is possible; an exchange that will help them make it through this moment until they find a better tomorrow,” Draper said.
From refreshingly honest and person videos to fact-heavy informational sheets, the NSPL offers numerous ways to connect with others and gain more insight into the real effects of suicide and how to properly deal with them.
When talking about suicide, a lot of numbers get thrown around, so the NSPL works to set the record straight with fact sheets from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), and more.
Such sheets consist of the CDC’s “Suicide: Facts at a Glance”, which points out facts like suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for males
and the 14th leading cause for females, and the SPRC’s “Suicide Prevention 101: Customized Information Series”, which recommends specialized ways for people to prevent suicide (i.e., teachers vs correctional officers vs guardians vs siblings, etc.).
It’s one thing to call a hotline or read a guide for advice, but it’s another to listen to stories told from a person who’s been in your shoes.
The NSPL’s video series puts a face to the person and a voice to the face, whether it’s an individual, family member, or professional. Each story takes you through someone’s journey from a life of despair to one of hope. Some of the videos even include a suicide prevention PSA from the cast of “One Tree Hill” and Draper’s own “Person-Centered Care in Suicide.”
A world without domestic violence and suicide is within our grasp, so the more we can help organizations like the NSPL and the NDVH, the more we can show people that these dark moments don’t last forever and a better tomorrow will come.
In order to get there, the NSPL strongly urges all of us to remember these three key facts:
“The overwhelming majority of suicides are prevented. There are 12 million people who seriously think about suicide every year, 8 million who plan their suicide, and 41,000 who actually kill themselves. There’s a huge gap between the number of people who are in suicidal crisis and people who actually kill themselves,” Draper said.
“In that gap revealed by the data are millions of stories of suicide prevention. Those are stories that are important for us to get out there because a lot of people, when they feel suicidal, believe they’re the only ones who feel this way and that there’s no way out,” he continued. “They should know other people who’ve felt every bit as lost and trapped in pain as they are feeling — like there was no answer to their problem — have found ways to hold on and get through it. Not only have they lived to tell the story, but many years later they have looked back and said ‘Thank God I got through that. I would’ve missed so much.'”
To learn more about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. If you or someone you know exhibits signs of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To learn more about the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the positive impact they’re having on stopping intimate partner violence, visit thehotline.org. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224.