Month: April 2020

Peacefully Coexisting with COVID-19: Safety from Suicide

This pandemic does NOT make people die by suicide. I know this from my decades of (and ongoing) active participation in the national “suicide prevention” community. This pandemic does NOT make people die by suicide.

If you want to “hear” this from someone else, try one of these links:
1) Fear and Isolation May Not Actually Bring A Rise In Suicide
by Emmy Betz, MD, MPH and Jessica Gold, MD, MS; April 13, 2020
2) Suicide Mortality and Coronavirus Disease 2019 – A Perfect Storm?
by Mark A. Reger, PhD; Ian A. Stanley, MS; and Thomas E. Joiner, PhD; April 10, 2020

As family, friends, and/or helpers we have the opportunity and responsibility to provide truth, as well as listening, emotional support, and when needed, help finding resources for emotional support and safety. As poet Gwendolyn Brooks said, “We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”

We must spread the word that dying by suicide does not have to happen just because one is in some group, or has some experience, in common with others who have died by suicide. If we encourage the belief that it is natural to die by suicide because of all of the losses from this pandemic, we help people go toward that direction. When we assure people that it is human and natural to have thoughts of suicide when we are affected by too much painful stuff, we can listen, support, and help people find ways to experience life worth living, and to stay alive.

One of the many reasons that I know this is possible is that I know Thomas Joiner’s Interpersonal Theory of Suicide. Joiner’s research basically showed that the intersection of three things leads to high risk of suicide. When a person experiences: 1) lack of belonging; 2) believing one is a burden; and 3) acquired capability for violence/ harming oneself; the likelihood of acting on suicidal thoughts is high.

We have the opportunity and responsibility to help others believe that they belong and are valued, not a burden. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic we need to urge #PhysicalDistance and #SocialConnection through all the safe methods of technology, including hand-writing letters, as well as some safe in-person contact at a 6′ or more distance, including outdoors in sunshine.

I am also a big fan of helping people develop and periodically update a Safety Plan as designed by Barbara Stanley, PhD and Gregory Brown, PhD. This plan is about identifying what one really knows, and safe ways one really will use, for easing the pain/ getting calmer.

For additional suggestions and for information about some of the USA’s free, 24/7 emotional/ mental health supports, please see my two previous “Peacefully Coexisting …” posts.

Some sources of Coronavirus / COVID-19 information
1) Whatever Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of USA’s National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, says
2) World Health Organization
3) USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4) The governmental health departments local to you

And most important, BE KIND! To yourself and others! Love really IS the answer.

If you are having those thoughts of suicide, please know that you are not the only one, and you do not have to act on those thoughts or urges. Please find someone who will listen, believe you, and help relieve some of the emotional intensity or numbness. Please.

If you are someone who is living with suicide grief, you deserve caring support. When your brain has the thought that the person’s death is your fault, and you are feeling guilty, try to accept those thoughts and feelings as natural for people who are grieving, and also remember that just because your brain has a thought, that thought is not always true. Talk with others who understand. We are around.

So many of us have more than one of the experiences with suicide: grief from the suicide death of one or more people we love; living with our own suicide thoughts, attempts, and/or self-harm; supporting someone we love who is suicidal; and/or working (volunteer or paid) as a support to people who are suicidal. Talking with people who “get it” is an important part of the support we deserve.

Take really good care!
Marcia Epstein, LMSW
Lawrence, Kansas, USA

PS I served from October 1979 – November 2013 as the Director of Headquarters, Inc., aka Headquarters Counseling Center, the free, 24/7 counseling center in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2001, Chad Sublet and I started the first Disaster Mental Health Team for Emergency Management of any county in Kansas. Currently, I provide individual, “family,” and group support for all those experiences with suicide, as well as for grief from other causes, and support for other life changes. I live with suicide grief, among other experiences of the harder kind. As well as much love and beauty. My experience and expertise in the area of crisis support and management continues to grow.