Kelly Schwab, Program supervisor of the Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas posted an opinion pierce in the Central Kitsap Reporter. See the article “Take action to prevent suicide” or read the article below.

In just one year–2014–34 lives were lost to suicide in Kitsap County alone. Already since Jan. 1 of this year, six more individuals have lost their lives to suicide in our community. If this continues, 2015 could see more deaths from suicide than any previous year in our County – but we can act to prevent this from happening.

It is important to shift an old misconception people may hold that suicide is a choice. The reality is suicide is a symptom of a mental health condition. What we know from our daily 24/7 work on the Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas Call Line is that when a person reaches the point of killing themselves, their thinking has been distorted to the extent that they’re convinced they must die, whether they want to die or not. The person often believes those they care about will be better off if they were dead, or that no one will really care if they are gone. When thinking has become distorted in this way, suicide isn’t a choice any more than choosing to die from cancer or heart disease.

What can you do to prevent suicide? Three things. When you see a person who is depressed or trying to cope with a difficult time: Ask, Listen, and Act.

There can be many warning signs of an internal struggle. Some signs to look for include: obsessing on a recent loss (this can be any kind of loss: a death of someone cared about, a job, or a breakup); deteriorating self image; a growing feeling they are a burden to people they care about; isolating themselves or expressing feelings of being cut off from people; losing control of their emotions, including anger or sadness; increased drinking or use of drugs; sleeping too much or too little; or worsening of their mental health condition.

It isn’t always possible to see the warning signs; sometimes the person thinking about suicide will go to great lengths to hide their thoughts. These warning signs don’t necessarily mean the person is having thoughts of suicide, but rather that they are struggling with some emotional distress. Asking about suicide could start a conversation that may save their life. Don’t be afraid to ask, it won’t “put an idea into someone’s head.” If they were thinking about it, it’s already there, and the question offers the opportunity to talk about what is happening, and get help if needed.

When asking questions about suicide, concern and empathy should be your primary response. Ask questions like: “Are you having thoughts about suicide?” or “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” Then listen to their answer. Allow them to talk about their thoughts and feelings, without minimizing them. Show concern, not fear or contempt. Don’t interrogate, but ask details about how would they kill themselves, when and where? If there is a plan, getting help becomes even more important. Tell the person what losing them would mean to you and to others without making them feel guilty for having thoughts of suicide. Let them know thinking of suicide is a normal reaction when we are in emotional pain and they are not alone. Stay with them until they are connected to help. Help can include doctors, counselors or other mental heath professionals. If you are unsure where to turn for help or if you need someone to talk to please call our local crisis clinic at 360-479-3033 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). Active duty military and veterans can be connected to the Veterans Crisis Line by calling 800-273-TALK and selecting option “1”.

If you would like to learn more about suicide prevention or how to help people in your community, consider volunteering at the Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas. To volunteer call 360-415-5816 or go to our website http://crisisclinicofthepeninsulas.org/.

Kelly Schwab is Program Supervisor for the Crisis Clinic of the Peninsulas/2-1-1 and active in Suicide Prevention in the Kitsap Community.

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