Reaching out for suicide prevention and awareness
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support over the phone at 1 (800) 273-8255
February 18, 2022
Reaching out can save a life.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An average of 130 Americans die by suicide every day.
Chickasaw Nation Department of Family Services Prevention Specialist Deanna Carpitche believes anyone can help.
Helping begins with asking a simple question.
“If suicide is a concern, they may never tell us,” Carpitche explained. “If we go ahead and ask the direct question ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’ a lot of times that gives them relief – that someone knows and is safe to talk to.”
She said it is a matter of paying attention to those around us, listening and helping them find the help that they need.
Cultivating two particular character traits can help one make an even more positive impact.
“If you’ve got a caring heart and a listening ear you can go a long way in helping to prevent suicide,” Carpitche said.
A common thought after losing someone to suicide is, “I never thought they would do it.” Anyone can, and accepting that possibility opens the door for more listening ears and caring hearts.
Carpitche said people who are suicidal do not necessarily want to die. They want to escape pain, or they feel stuck. For those people, suicide flashes like a giant billboard right in front of their face, leaving no room for them to see anything else and no other way out.
They need enough time and space to safely see around that billboard. A person willing to listen and care offers an opportunity to see a different outcome. “Listen long enough to help relieve their pain, so they know they are not alone and someone cares,” Carpitche said. “It is not ours to fix. It is theirs. Just listen. They may need to talk about it to figure it out.”
It is possible someone answering, “Yes,” to the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?” is hearing it for the very first time.
“If we let them talk, they’ll hear what they are saying, too,” Carpitche said.
While listening, notice when their words have life in them – like mentions of family, friends, plans and aspirations. Then help them make a plan to stay safe.
Where to turn during a suicide crisis
“If you are contemplating suicide, tell somebody and get some help. Go to the nearest emergency room or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They are the people who have the resources to help and get the person where they need to be,” Carpitche said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support over the phone at 1 (800) 273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7 support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources. Lifeline also offers a chat service for anyone who is depressed, going through a hard time, needs to talk or is thinking about suicide.
In a crisis situation, the Lifeline or the closest emergency room are the best places to turn.
Prevention and preparation
A person in distress is most likely to turn to someone close to them. Considering this, having a net of prepared and caring individuals spread throughout communities is an important part of suicide prevention and preparation.
“Most people aren’t going to go directly to mental health professionals and say they need help. They’re going to tell a friend or family member, somebody they know and feel comfortable with. So, that’s why we try to teach as many people as we can to know what to do,” Carpitche said.
With a number of programs, the Chickasaw Nation trains and educates individuals, schools and families about suicide prevention, equipping them with the resources, skills and knowledge to assist those in need.
These opportunities for preparedness include Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), safeTALK half-day suicide prevention training and Talk Saves Lives classes.
These opportunities are open to the public and in some cases virtually through services such as Zoom. Contact prevention services at (580) 272-1180 to enroll.
“We encourage everyone to put the Lifeline number into their phone. You never know when someone might need it,” Carpitche said.
For more information, visit Chickasaw.net/Prevention.