A friend messaged me late into the night on Sunday. “I lost someone” and “he took his own life” sat front and center on the screen of my phone. As a therapist familiar with the impact suicide has on the living, I talked with my friend for a bit and shared some resources to help them through the loss.

Two individuals recently took their lives days apart in the Eastern Panhandle. As the community works to heal itself, a question often asked in the wake of this is “What could I have done?” Suicide and mental health are delicate yet complex topics. Many factors such as diet, personality, genetics, environment, and available support play a role in the balance of the crippling thoughts and feelings suffered by those who consider or commit suicide

By the numbers the rate of suicide is highest in middle age — white men in particular. Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women. White males accounted for 7 out of every 10 suicides in 2014.

Losing someone you love is a devastating, and not everyone has a therapist friend they can talk to when the worst happens. The following are ways we can support each other and work to prevent suicide in our communities.

Learn The Symptoms

SAVE, which stands for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, has a great website on the symptoms and danger signs of potential suicide. Many of these risk factors include

  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
  • Suddenly happier, calmer.
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions.

Visit their website to learn more and educate yourself on suicide and depression.

Talk about it

There is a lot of stigma around mental health and suicide. Being open and talking about the impact of mental health and substance abuse issues with your friends and family can start the process of breaking down the stigma in our community

Mental Health America is currently running a campaign called B4Stage4. With this campaign, Mental Health America seeks to address mental health conditions…   long before they reach the most critical points in the disease process.”

Project Semicolon is another resource focused on support and inspiration for people dealing with mental health issues, suicide, self-injury and addiction.

Get Help

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a resource for those living with suicidal thoughts or experiencing a suicidal crisis. Calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) day or night will connect a person to a trained counselor.

Find a therapist or counselor in your area who can help with your feelings, thoughts, and concerns. EastRidge Health Systems has offices in Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan County to address mental health and substance abuse issues. Shenandoah Community Health has offices in Jefferson and Berkeley County to address mental health and substance abuse issues. Contacting your health insurance agency is another great way to find a counselor as they can share a listing of those who are covered under your policy. There are a number of therapists who also use West Virginia Medicaid. Often times, employers will also have an EAP (employee assistance program) which provides free, confidential referrals for local counseling services. Some EAPs also provide three free counseling sessions for each individual in a particular family.

It’s also important for family members and friends dealing with loss to seek emotional support. A resource for coping with loss is  Hospice of the Eastern Panhandle. They have trained counselors who work with individuals on the stages of grief after the loss of a loved one.

If someone you know is not seeking assistance for their mental health issue, there are more direct measures you can take, including a law enforcement well-being check or applying for a Mental Hygiene Involuntary Commitment. Both of these resources can save lives.

Out of the Darkness

An Out of the Darkness Walk will be held on October 15, 2016 on the Shepherd University Campus. This fundraising event is for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and organization dedicated to raising awareness, investing in research and education, advocating for public policy, and providing support for survivors of suicide loss. For more information and to register for the walk, visit their website.

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