By Mary McPhail Gray
NVW Board Chair
An expression of grief and guilt after the suicide of a friend or family member is a deeply painful thing to say or hear. After four unexpected deaths of adults in Taos in the last month, many are deeply sorrowful and feeling a terrible sense of failure.
We all need to be informed and courageous in providing a lifeline to someone in deep need. Experience and research provide us with some guidance, and there are local, state and national resources to tap.
First of all, if you are aware that someone you know is deeply distressed, then you are a significant resource to them—you are close enough to observe and to support them. And the first rule is: Be present with them—don’t avoid them—be there to listen and show empathy. The idea of someone committing suicide is frightening to most of us, so it is easy to withdraw or ignore what you see. But it is important not to ignore them and to be caring enough to say outright, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
When you feel someone is deeply depressed, asking them outright about their suicide feelings can help lower their anxiety level. They recognize that you care, which can free them to talk about their pain and problems. A person who is considering suicide generally gives many clues about their intentions, and observant friends and family can be supportive. Most crises of suicidal thinking are marked by disorganized thinking and are generally short lived—the person is looking for solutions and has no available resources.
Critical to being supportive is to resist downplaying their pain—saying it will go away or giving them immediate advice. They need to be genuinely heard by someone who is fully present with them. And, if you do not currently know them, you can state that you will find resources to be supportive to them. In Taos, suicidal clients are served by Tri-County Mental Health Community Services (1-575-758-5857) and Nonviolence Works (1-575-758-4297).
Another way to be of support to a friend in need is to give them text, phone and website resources. These have all been developed by professionals in response to real life experiences and reflections on what is most helpful. A crisis text line is found by typing “START#741741”. You will get an immediate answer from a professional on line who will text back to you and begin a supportive exchange.
The New Mexico Crisis and Access Line is 1-855-662-7474, and both English and Spanish are available. The website for further information, publications, etc. is www.NMCrisisline.com.
New Mexico supports a “warm line,” which is peer-to-peer support and is accessed at 1-855-466-7100. With this resource you can talk to someone who may have experienced the same struggles you are experiencing.
Another unique supportive app is “MV3.” which is free to download from Google Play or the Apple Store. You will be asked to identify three persons close to you who should be informed if you are in deep despair—and the app guides you through making a safety plan.
The National Suicide Prevention Hot Line is 1-800-273-8255. The website for the National Health and Human Services department that supports this hot line is at www.samhsa.gov. Many media and print resources are listed there.
Keep this column close at hand, and use it to be a resource in our community. Our youth have already taken leadership for their peers with the award-winning app “See Something, Say Something.” Let’s make sure adults also have resources to be supportive.
Suicide touches all our lives.
Nonviolence Works has the largest staff of behavioral health counselors and social workers. Contact us at 575-758-4297 or www.nonviolenceworks.us
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of NVW and can be reached at 575-779-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.