By Kimberly McWilliams, LPC, GSN Guest Writer
Someone you know – maybe your child, a teenager down the block or an adult family member, friend or colleague – is hurting inside.
You’ve noticed abrupt changes in his personality, seen her shrink from normal activities at school or projects at work, heard their emotional outbursts. You haven’t done anything about it, thinking maybe it’s a just a phase or not really your business.
Please ACT – Acknowledge, Care, Tell – immediately, because this person likely is struggling with depression and may be on a spiral to suicidal thoughts.
Here are steps to take:
Know the warning signs. These may include noticeable changes in eating, sleeping and grooming, withdrawing from friends, giving away possessions, taking unnecessary risks, scratching or cutting themselves, increased drug or alcohol use or talking about suicide.
Start a dialogue. Be open, not judgmental, be supportive and direct. Say, “You look sad to me, can you tell me what’s going on?” Be persistent and listen for the warning signs.
Be clear and compassionate. Don’t be afraid to use the word “suicide,” and ask them if they are contemplating it. Make sure they understand you and others care about them, and that they are valuable and important. Assure them there is always hope and that they are never alone.
Assess and act. If you determine the situation is serious, get help. Talk with your child’s school counselor or a trusted teacher. If the symptoms persist, get professional help through your insurance, or by calling Terros Health at (602) 685-6000 or the Crisis Response Network 24-hour line at (602) 222-9444.
Devise a safety plan. This could be an agreement that the person will call you immediately when sad, depressed or hopeless, or designation of a trusted person to dispense medications as needed and lock up or discard the rest.
Be their champion. Don’t give up. You may save a life.
Kimberly McWilliams is a licensed professional counselor and the clinical site manager at Terros Health, a Phoenix-based nonprofit, behaviorally-led whole health, integrated care provider.