National Suicide Prevention Lifeline #BeThe1To
A note from the author:
I sincerely thank everyone who has shared their feedback and comments on this blog post. I take these concerns that have been shared very seriously. The language I used in the original version of this blog post has been changed to more accurately represent National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's #Bethe1To campaign, especially in relation to those who support others and those who may have lost someone to suicide.
I took a work trip to Phoenix, Arizona, in the spring of 2017. During my time there, I grabbed an Uber so I could take advantage of some of the short hiking trails just outside of town. On my return ride back from one of those trails, I struck up a conversation with the driver to help pass the time. I spoke excitedly about the natural beauty of the area and he agreed that there were some wonderful, hidden gems scattered amongst the red rocks. Naturally, he asked what brought me to Phoenix that week and what I did for a living. I told him about the American Association of Suicidology conference that was happening downtown and my role as one of the many representatives of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
I talked a little about the remarkable folks who were speaking at the conference; how much education and knowledge was shared in such a short window of time. He too spoke a little about his own experiences regarding suicide. He admitted that he had never had thoughts of suicide, but family and friends have been candid with him in the past about their own. He remarked on how difficult it can be to speak to someone about suicide when you know they really need help. He knew about the hotline and said, “That hotline does an impossible job, friend.” Before arriving at our destination, I told him our hotline number, 800-273-8255, is always a great place to start if he ever needed to have a conversation with someone about suicide again.
I think back on this moment often, because it shows some of the challenges that people may face when they want to help someone that is thinking about suicide. Like my driver, some may ask, “How can I try to help someone who is struggling?”
To answer this question, the perennial #BeThe1To campaign remains a vital, easily accessible resource for supporting anyone who may be thinking about suicide. It focuses on achieving realistic steps both experts and non-professionals alike can use to try to support those in the midst of a suicidal crisis. The five essential steps are:
Ask: Ask the question: “Are you thinking about suicide,” directly and without judgment.
Keep Them Safe: See if this person has a plan and work with them to find ways to eliminate their plan. Separate them from anything harmful or seek immediate medical attention if absolutely necessary.
Be There: Stay with them and find out what they need in the moment. Don’t leave them alone. Listen to them and sit with them in their emotional pain.
Help Them Connect: Work with the person in the moment to find some additional supports or people they can reach out to (family, friends, therapists, the Lifeline).
Follow-Up: Check in on them at some point after the conversation. Maybe the next day, maybe later that evening. See how they’re doing and let them know that you are there to help.
It is the Lifeline’s belief that bringing awareness to these steps may help someone in need. It is why we continue to share this campaign year after year and I invite you to check out our website to learn more about how and why these steps can help someone who is thinking about suicide.
The Lifeline wants to continue to build upon the tenants of the #BeThe1To campaign and show how fundamental the idea of hope is in a conversation about suicide and support. To build on that message of hope, the campaign this year offers a space on its website for anyone to share the ways that they have been supported by another person. By filling out one of our virtual postcards, you can tell us how someone has been the one to support you during a crucial time. As we move through September and the rest of the year, this wall of postcards will grow and proudly display the infinite number of ways anyone can try to help someone during a crisis.
In tandem, the five steps and the #BeThe1To thank you cards can act as first resources for those needing assistance in providing support. However, if you ever need more guidance, it is always okay to reach out to the Lifeline through its hotline number 800-273-8255 to speak to a local crisis center for additional help. Over 150 crisis centers make up the Lifeline network and it is their tireless and incredible compassion that helps millions of callers every year find strength and support. Check out our Crisis Centers page on the Lifeline website to learn more about your local crisis center and find out how they are helping your community and state to prevent suicide.
Every day, hope happens. The Lifeline and the #BeThe1to campaign are always there for you should you ever need support.
The views, information and opinions expressed herein are those of the author; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Council on Accreditation (COA). COA invites guest authors to contribute to the COA blog due to COA's confidence in their knowledge on the subject matter and their expertise in their chosen field.