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Your role in helping prevent suicides during the coronavirus

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Did you know you could help someone struggling with suicidal thoughts? You could even save their life.

That’s important to understand at any time – especially so now, maybe, because the coronavirus outbreak has so many people isolated and withdrawn. Perhaps they’re experiencing heightened anxiety or depression.

According to Laura Lewis ’10 MA, a licensed professional clinical counselor and assistant director of Ohio State’s suicide prevention program, signs and symptoms of suicidal thoughts may be right in front of us.

“It’s just whether or not we see them,” Lewis said.

Suicide is often considered a mental health issue. It’s not, according to Lewis. It’s a public health issue, meaning anyone can step in and help.

“The ability to notice somebody is hurting, or to see those signs and symptoms someone may be in distress, you don’t have to have a license behind your name to do that,” she said.

Since 2013, Ohio State’s Suicide Prevention Program has trained more than 22,000 students, staff and faculty through REACH. REACH trainings increase awareness of suicide and suicide risk, give people skills to respond to a person who may be in distress and help that person get treatment and care.

“Creating a culture of care is universal to the Buckeye community,” Lewis said. “We have a societal problem with suicide that everybody has to the potential to change. We are empowering people, and we are saving lives on and off our campus all the time.”

How? It’s in the name.

REACH stands for:

  • Recognize the warning signs.
  • Engage with empathy.
  • Ask directly about suicide.
  • Communicate hope.
  • Help suicidal individuals access care and treatment.

Training sessions are intended to give general information and help identify risks and how to respond to someone who may be having suicidal thoughts.

  1. Look for warning signs.

    One key way you can help prevent suicide is to recognize signs. Some of the first signs could be changes in sleep patterns or appetite, a depressed mood or feelings of hopelessness.

    More serious symptoms could include expressions of depression, anxiety or stress, increased aggression and even talking about death or dying.  

  2. Learn how to intervene.

    REACH trainees are taught the importance of expressing concern and to directly ask someone showing signs if they are considering suicide.

    From here, it’s important to listen with empathy, without judgment, and offer understanding and support.

The ability to notice somebody is hurting, or to see those signs and symptoms someone may be in distress, you don’t have to have a license behind your name to do that.

Laura Lewis ’10 MA, Licensed professional clinical counselor and assistant director of Ohio State’s suicide prevention program
  1. Give hope.

    Someone considering suicide has essentially lost hope.

    “When you’re suicidal, you’re living with blinders on,” Lewis said. “They don’t see alternatives to releasing their burden of pain. When they don’t have something to hang their hat on in the future, there’s nothing to ground them in the present.”

    “We really stress making a hope-filled connection with someone who is distressed, showing them there are other ways to get help.”

  2. Help them to the next step.

    The REACH website offers incredible resources you can use to help someone through a crisis situation.

    Also, if you are an Ohio State student or faculty or staff member, you can request REACH training in the future. During the COVID-19 outbreak, REACH trainings are on hold, but program organizers are looking in to ways to have virtual trainings until in-person sessions can resume.