Suicide Awareness Month: How to Provide Verbal Support
Updated: Sep 3
Prevalence and Impact of Suicide
Suicide is a deeply complex and sensitive topic that has garnered considerable attention due to its profound impact on individuals, families, and societies worldwide. A global public health concern, it’s estimated that approximately 800,000 people by die by suicide each year, making it a leading cause of death worldwide. Behind these numbers lie stories of pain, despair, and the culmination of various factors that drive individuals to believe that ending their lives is the only solution.
Learn more about Prevalent Data in the US.
Defined as the act of intentionally ending one’s own life, suicide is a tragic outcome often stemming from a complex interplay of psychological, social, biological, and environmental factors. Its implications extend beyond the individual, affecting communities and societies as they grapple with the emotional aftermath and search for effective ways to prevent further loss. Understanding the multifaceted nature of suicide is crucial in order to promote awareness, open conversations, provide support, and develop strategies for prevention.
Here’s Why Support Matters
At BYBS, we value the idea of individuals working together as a community to foster a culture of care for individuals who are in need of support. Communities that promote respect, care and unconditional regard to individuals who show potential signs that they are struggling are more likely to reduce suicide rates and have higher rates of positive mental health overall.
Common Signs that Someone Might be Struggling:
It’s important to note that signs of internal struggle can widely vary from person to person, and some individuals may not outwardly display any signs at all. However, here is a list of common signs to look for that could indicate someone might be struggling in silence:
Isolation. They withdraw from social interactions and spend more time alone than usual.
Mood Swings. Frequent and intense mood swings, such as going from being overly happy to extremely sad or irritable.
Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Significant changes in eating or sleeping habits, whether it’s eating too much or too little, experiencing insomnia or excessive sleepiness.
Loss of Interest. They lose interest in activities or hobbies they once enjoyed and show a general lack of enthusiasm.
Physical Symptoms. Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, or body aches that have no apparent medical cause.
Neglect of Personal Care. A decline in personal hygiene and appearance, such as neglecting to shower, groom, or wear clean clothes.
Lack of Concentration. Difficulty focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
Expression of Hopelessness or Helplessness. Frequent expressions of feeling hopeless, trapped, or like they’re a burden to others.
Increased Irritability. They become easily frustrated, agitated, or have a shorter fuse than usual.
Increased Substance Use. Using alcohol, drugs, or other substances more frequently or in larger quantities as a way to cope.
Changes in Energy Levels. Unexplained shifts in energy levels, including periods of extreme fatigue and lack of motivation, or bursts of hyperactivity.
Emotional Outbursts. Intense emotional reactions that seem out of proportion to the situation.
Self-Destructive Behavior. Engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors, such as self-harm or reckless actions.
Difficulty Expressing Emotions. Struggling to articulate or communicate their feelings, leading to a sense of emotional numbness or detachment.
Constant Self-Criticism. A tendency to be overly critical of oneself and a pervasive sense of inadequacy.
Sudden Decline in Performance. A noticeable drop in work, school, or personal performance.
Increased Sensitivity. Becoming more sensitive to criticism or perceived slights.
Unexplained Crying. Frequent bouts of crying without an obvious trigger.
We believe building a community of care that can help detect these symptoms quickly would go a long way in helping more people feel safe, loved, and comfortable seeking help when they need it.
We understand that giving support may not be a natural instinct to every individual, so we have created a simple, actionable list of ways in which you can provide empathetic support to individuals who may be struggling in your family, your friend group, at your work, or in your community at large.
Ways you can provide Support:
First, we wanted to start with some questions you can utilize to help strengthen your empathy and considerate nature for individuals who may be struggling.
“How are you feeling?” -Although seemingly simple, this question has so much power, as it delicately opens the door to finding out how a person is truly feeling, without having to “push” for an answer. This question shows that you care about their well-being and are willing to listen.
“Can you tell me more about what you’re experiencing?” -Encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings can help them feel heard and understood. It shows that you’re genuinely interested in their perspective.
“Are you comfortable talking about what’s on your mind?” - Asking for their comfort level respects their boundaries and shows that you’re considerate of their readiness to discuss difficult topics.
“How can I best support you during difficult times?” This question invites them to guide you on how you can provide meaningful support that aligns with their needs. You’re being respectful and supportive here.
“Have you spoken to anyone else about how you’re feeling?” -This question helps you understand if they’ve reached out for support from others, and it may provide an opportunity to discuss the importance of seeking help.
“What coping strategies do you use when these feelings become overwhelming?” -Exploring coping mechanisms empowers them to actively participate in managing their mental health.
“Have you considered seeking support from a therapist or counselor?” -This question gently introduces the idea of professional help, which can be a crucial component of managing mental health struggles.
“Would you like me to stay with you or find someone else you can talk to?” -Offering to be present or helping them connect with another support person demonstrates your commitment to their well-being.
These powerful questions help convey care and concern, which then leads to individuals feeling more accepted, understood, and safe to discuss their struggles.
Certainly, offering reassurance can be a powerful way to provide comfort and support to someone who is struggling.
Here’s a list of reassuring statements along with explanations for each:
“I’m here for you.” -This statement communicates your unwavering presence and support, showing that you’re willing to stand by them during their difficult times.
“Your feelings are valid.” -Acknowledging their emotions validates their experiences and encourages them to express themselves without judgment.
“It’s okay to ask for help.” -Encouraging them to seek assistance normalizes reaching out for support, which can be a crucial step in their healing process.
“We’ll get through this together.” -This reinforces your commitment to their well-being and reminds them that they’re not facing difficulties alone.
“You’ve shown resilience in the past, and you can do it again.” -Reflecting on their past successes in overcoming challenges can inspire confidence in their ability to overcome current struggles.
“I’m proud of you for opening up about this.” -Praising their willingness to share their feelings can help reduce shame or stigma they may feel about their struggles.
“You’re important to me, and I care about your well-being.” -Expressing your care and concern reinforces your relationship and provides them with a sense of significance.
“Let’s focus on your well-being and take things at your pace.” -Emphasizing their well-being and allowing them to set the pace of their journey demonstrates respect for their comfort level.
“Thank you for sharing.” -You’re expressing gratitude for their courage to tell you what’s on their mind. It’s a great statement to give after a person has unveiled their struggles.
The most important aspect of offering reassurance is being genuine, empathetic, and respectful of the person’s emotions. Everyone’s needs are unique, so tailor your statements to the individual and their specific situation.
Seeking Professional Help
Although being a strong support system for a person is crucial to helping them feel heard, validated, and loved, sometimes there needs to be professional intervention. Trained mental health professionals - especially at BYBS - possess the expertise to navigate the complex landscape of emotions and thoughts associated with suicide. Our counselors’ guidance provides a safe and confidential space for someone to express their feelings without judgment; they’re also equipped to perform risk assessment and develop personalized treatment plans based on the level of concern.
Through therapeutic conversations, our clinicians can help individuals explore the underlying factors contributing to their distress, identify healthier coping mechanisms, and build resilience. Moreover, our clinicians can offer a structured and consistent approach to recovery, ensuring ongoing monitoring of progress and adjustment of strategies as needed. With a holistic-infused focus on fostering emotional healing and promoting well-being, the BYBS team can help empower individuals to regain control of their lives and find hope in a future beyond their current struggles.
Meet three of our highly skilled clinicians, trained in this area of care and can help assist in an empathetic, patient, and calm manner.
HALL BIRDSONG BYBS Clinician
Areas of Expertise: Trauma, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, codependency, LGBTQIA+, stress management, work-life balance, young adults, teens (15+), men’s issues, meditation/mindfulness.
“My specialty is a blend of holding space while also providing direction and I work best with trauma and trauma-related disorders, including developmental trauma, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, enmeshment/neglect, and adverse childhood experiences. It’s not uncommon for trauma to create lasting patterns, such as codependency, people pleasing, chronic nervous system dysregulation, low self-esteem, and relationship difficulties, and I enjoy helping individuals feel empowered to release these patterns. Safety and your autonomy are most important to me in the therapeutic relationship, so my work is very intuitive; I use attunement practices and emotion-focused strategies to help people establish safety, decrease traumatic stress symptoms, and process the traumatic experience.”
ROCHELLE YOUNG BYBS Clinician
Areas of Expertise: Trauma, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, grief/loss, relationship issues, women’s issues, family issues, life transitions
“My experience in teaching taught me that we are curious creatures, and that education can hold a lot of power in healing! Understanding what is happening in your brain and body can help you increase self-resilience and patience. I can help you develop a deeper understanding of your own thoughts and behaviors as well as how to use meditative techniques such as grounding, guided imagery, and deep breathing to release your stress and overwhelm and feel more grounded and calm. The therapy process with me is collaborative and will mean learning more about yourself, how some of your coping mechanisms may be keeping you stuck, how to be mindful and intentional with your life and create a new, healthier, happier version of you.”
JAMIE MOLNAR CEO/CLINICAL DIRECTOR
In her 18 years working in mental health and wellness, Jamie has trained countless clinical and non-clinical professionals all over the country on a variety of mental health topics, including how to build a behavioral intervention team, case management for high-risk individuals, and risk assessment / intervention for suicide. She is passionate about reducing stigma to seeking support. Please check out her Media Kit to learn about how she can help your organization build a culture of care and implement systems for individuals who may be struggling.
“Many people hear the term ‘mental health’ and get nervous. But ‘mental health’ is really just an extension of being human. We all have ‘mental health’ and we all know what it’s like to be in a good place, or not. When you put it that way, people can relate. And the more we normalize ‘mental health’, the more people will feel comfortable stepping in and lending a hand when one is needed.”
If you are struggling internally and need some professional assistance, interested in strengthening your empathetic nature, or anything else, know that BYBS is always here to help at your pace.
If you are interested in scheduling a free 15-minute consultation with Hall Birdsong, Rochelle Young, or setting up a training / presentation with Jamie Molnar, visit our BYBS Website.
In this journey towards preventing suicide, let us remember that our strength lies not only in the power of our actions, but also in the depth of our empathy. Together, we can create a world where everyone feels they have a network of caring individuals to turn to in their darkest moments, and where the stigma surrounding mental health is replaced with understanding, compassion, and hope.