Gillette Law - April 2018

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APRIL 2018


What follows is a discussion on suicide and its prevention. If you have lost a loved one or attempted suicide yourself, this content may be distressing. If you are currently having suicidal thoughts or thoughts about hurting yourself, please seek help. Resources are listed at the bottom of this article. Difficult conversations are often the most important, especially when education can make all the difference. Understanding suicidal depression, how to recognize it, and how to talk about it can save a life. Just last year, three of my clients took their own lives, and several other clients made an attempt on their own life. It’s a tragically common occurrence in disability law. So often, physical trauma or illness is accompanied by depression, PTSD, anxiety, and general feelings of hopelessness, the symptoms of which can be hard to spot. Having gone through my own training for suicide prevention from the American Bar Association, I want to pass on what I’ve learned in hopes of stopping such tragedies. Though National Suicide Prevention Week falls in September, rates begin to spike in April. Just because the weather is warmer does not mean people in despair feel any better. For many, the decision to end their own life doesn’t come on a whim. Suicidal thoughts can gestate for months or even years before an attempt is made. It can be hard to recognize when these thoughts plague a loved one. They may not know how seriously to take these thoughts themselves or might not feel comfortable sharing them. Warning signs include the following: • A preoccupation with death, such as writing poems or stories about dying • Expressing self-loathing or feeling they are a burden • Withdrawing from others, isolating themselves from friends and family • Feeling hopeless • Self-destructive behavior, including substance abuse and reckless driving • Talking about suicide, even if it was “just a joke”

• Getting affairs in order, crafting a will, or saying goodbye to people as if for the last time • Sudden calm after a period of being depressed When you feel a loved one is considering suicide, it is important to talk about it. Some people fear that bringing up suicide might put the idea into their head or make it more likely to occur. In fact, the opposite is true; by not asking, you send the message that you don’t care about their well-being. The key in these conversations is to be direct and empathetic. Let them know that you see they are in pain and that you are here to help. Listen to them, show interest in what they have to say, and be supportive. Their feelings are not up for debate. You can’t lecture someone into feeling better. What you can do is talk about practical, positive steps they can take. For those considering suicide, it can be hard to see how much they are loved. This conversation can be a bright spark in the night, one that can kindle real change. Encourage them to seek counseling, engage in self- care, and to make a safety plan for when their despair feels unbearable. Let them know that there are resources to help them through this difficult time. Resources National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Ayuda En Español: 1-888-628-9454

Veterans Affairs: Veterans, service members, and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat

N e x t D o o r Bu

online to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. –Brian Gillette

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