LINCOLN – Earlier this month on September 10–World Suicide Prevention Day–Governor Pete Ricketts encouraged Nebraskans to monitor their mental well-being and to be on the lookout for signs of mental distress in loved ones.
“The last couple of years have created a significant amount of disruption to our lives here in Nebraska. Recently, the pandemic has placed more distance between us than usual,” said Gov. Ricketts. “Dealing with the stress of the pandemic can be difficult. We need to combat the mental impact of the virus just as rigorously as its physical threat.”
“Like any other health emergency such as a heart attack or stroke, it’s important to address a mental health crisis quickly and effectively,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of a mental health crisis. By simply talking about suicide and mental health, we can achieve a cultural shift where we actively encourage Nebraskans to share thoughts of suicide and reach out for help.”
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has been educating Nebraskans to identify signs of mental distress. They include:
1) Withdrawal: A change of behavior in how someone interacts with friends, family, and the community.
2) Agitation: A change in mood, such as increased anger or irritability.
3) Hopelessness: Feelings of being trapped and unable to get out of what someone is going through; talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
4) Changing routine: A change in someone’s daily habits, such as wanting to sleep all day or being unable to sleep.
5) Changing personality: Someone seems joyless or unable to experience life as usual.
6) Increased alcohol and drug use or other risky activities.
7) Discussing potential methods of suicide.
8) Giving away possessions.
9) Saying goodbye to friends and family.
10) Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers.
If you notice these signs in a friend or family member, or see them in yourself, take immediate action. Mental health issues are treatable, and with the right help people can recover. State and national hotlines are available to provide assistance.
The Nebraska Family Helpline: 1-888-866-8660
The Nebraska Rural Response Hotline: 1-800-464-0258
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
The Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition (NSSPC) is another helpful resource for Nebraskans interested in suicide prevention. NSSPC is a volunteer-led group comprised of suicide survivors, public and private agencies, and other Nebraskans dedicated to preventing suicides. NSSPC has a website with information about suicide prevention, along with contact information for local suicide prevention coalitions.
When a suicide-related crisis occurs, friends and family are often caught off guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do.
Strategies for action include:
*Talking openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
*Removing means such as weapons, ropes, or stockpiled pills.
*Practicing active listening techniques such as reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts. This can help your loved one feel heard and validated.
*Expressing support and concern.
*Avoiding arguing, threatening, or raising your voice.
*Being patient, kind, and compassionate.
*If your friend or family member struggles with suicidal ideation day-to-day, let them know that they can talk with you about what they’re going through.
*Let them know that mental health professionals are trained to help people understand their feelings and teach coping skills.
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide, there are Local Outreach to Suicide Survivor (LOSS) teams in Nebraska who can provide support. Please reach out (www.nelossteam.nebraska.edu).