I am the mother of three teenagers and executive director of Foundation 2, an agency that each year serves nearly 30,000 people experiencing a mental health crisis.
I am saddened to hear of more lives in our community ending by suicide. I feel heartbroken about the hopelessness and struggle that those contemplating suicide experience. Likewise, I think about grieving loved ones left behind after a suicide, and am equally heartbroken.
The common theme running through all of Foundation 2’s programs is suicide prevention, intervention and response. But today, I want my words to connect with you not as the executive director of this important nonprofit, but as a human. As a parent, a sister and a friend. As a person who deeply cares about others and believes we can live in a world with zero suicides.
Suicide is not inevitable for anyone.
Talking about suicide is comfortable for me. I talk about suicide daily in some aspect of my life; with staff, clients, professionals in the community, and with my family. Especially now. But talking about suicide would be very uncomfortable for me if I did not know much about it, or how to talk about it.
I get it, I really do. Suicide can be scary and probably seems like a really hard thing to talk about. Asking your child if they have ever thought about suicide, or connecting with a friend or partner who seems to be struggling with health or life changes can be challenging. What would you say? How would you say it? What if you “screwed it up” and said something wrong? More importantly, what if you ask someone if they have thought about suicide and they say, “yes” — what then?
Please know one of the best ways to prevent suicide is to ask the question. “I care about you. I’m concerned. Are you thinking about suicide?”
Asking the question and listening to the answer in a caring, non-judgmental way can save a life. You don’t know the internal struggles someone is dealing with until you ask. Ask the question, and be present with the person and their pain. Let them share their hurt. Once you know the answer, you can connect the person in crisis to resources, with you at their side to help.
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Asking the question will not do harm. The idea that bringing it up will “put ideas in their head” is a decades-old myth. Those in crisis or struggling with suicidal thoughts want to know that others care — and want to know that others can handle their pain.
If you are concerned about someone in your life but aren’t quite sure what to say, Foundation 2 can serve as your coach. Our crisis line is available any time — day or night — and staff can speak with you about the situation and can provide encouragement and support for you, as you prepare to support someone in your life.
Foundation 2 is proud to have a crisis line that has existed since 1970 (319-362-2174), and we also answer the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in Iowa (800-273-8255 or 800-273-TALK). Either number connects to a trained, compassionate counselor ready to provide support. Counselors can do a detailed assessment, connect callers to support and resources in our community, and offer direct support. Not ready to make the call? Reach out for information on our website at foundation2.org.
As September ends, so does National Suicide Prevention Month. Regardless of the month, or the day, everyone plays a role in suicide prevention. I have seen evidence that talking about suicide and checking in regularly with those you care about is something that any of us can do to help others.
My dream for my children and my community is to live in a world where everyone struggling with a crisis is connected with help — and hope. Thank you for being brave and joining me to make a difference for those who are hurting. Together, as a community, we can save lives.
• Emily Blomme is executive director of Foundation 2 in Cedar Rapids