Spreading suicide prevention methods begins with educating young people in school and teaching them to reach out to friends.
In recent months, we have witnessed several terrible storms, floods, earthquakes and a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas. Afterwards, we learned of first responders and common citizens who saved the lives of others who were in danger. These are people who helped or saved others, at times putting themselves at risk. The stories are inspiring and uplifting. We feel good hearing about them; there is no doubt that people who have performed heroic deeds must feel great satisfaction.
When it comes to suicide prevention, we all have an opportunity to be heroes. There are simple actions that can be taken to have a positive impact on a person who is struggling. Furthermore, having positive connections, interactions and relationships with others improves one’s mental health and even lowers risk of suicide.
Helping young people
We also know that when young people are in emotional distress, they are most likely to tell a friend. Very often, just being a friend to someone and spending time with him or her can be incredibly helpful. Therefore, when a distressed person does not reach out, a friend is in an excellent position to notice that their friend is struggling. They can be the one to get that person the help they need.
It is not necessary to be a trained counselor to recognize when someone might be having a hard time. A statement that acknowledges concern like, “I notice you seem to be missing lots of class recently” or “you seem to be tired or sad often lately” followed by, “is anything going on? How can I help?” can make a world of difference.
The Jed Foundation (JED), along with several partners, will soon release a media campaign to encourage young people to support their friends and inform them about how easy reaching out can be. Through JED Campus, which is focused on colleges, and Set to Go, focused on high schools, JED works with schools to increase connectedness and mutual support among students.
The 94-year-old British historian Sir Michael Howard recently said, “The great lesson of my lifetime is that all difficult problems and challenges are best addressed with partners and allies.”
Above all, we all can be allies for our friends, and, in the process, we just might become heroes.