Editor’s Note: September is #SuicidePreventionMonthThis article first appeared in the August 2020 issues of the Washington State Employee Assistance Program’s Employee Frontline Newsletter:
Our state Department of Health (DOH) has been investigating and reporting on the many impacts of COVID-19 on all of us, including mental and behavioral health impacts. The COVID-19 pandemic has been widely regarded as a natural disaster, and in a June 2020 report the DOH considered the COVID-19 pandemic from this perspective and predicted significant behavioral health impacts of COVID using disaster response and recovery modeling. One of the report’s key findings is that suicides in Washington are expected to peak between October and December 2020. Washington’s suicide rate had already increased by nearly 19% from 1999-2016, and our state has the 21st highest suicide rate in the nation at 17.5 deaths per 100,000 people, higher than the national suicide rate of 14.5.
There is some good news: most suicides are preventable, and we can all take action to prepare and get in front of this curve. Here’s what you can do:
- Most important: if you or someone else is at immediate risk of suicide, please don’t wait – call 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
- Take 2 minutes now to put the 24 hour crisis numbers in your phone:
- Find out how you can make your home safer by reducing access to medications and firearms – these are highly lethal methods for dying by suicide, and research has shown that reducing access to highly lethal means saves lives.
- Learn how you can help someone who is at risk of suicide using the LEARN model, which was developed by Forefront Suicide Prevention at the University of Washington, a national leader in suicide prevention:
- Watch the 45 minute on-demand suicide prevention training webinar through the state’s Learning Management System (LMS): search for “WA-State Suicide Awareness.” Developed especially for use in the workplace by the state Department of Enterprise Services in partnership with a coalition of suicide prevention experts, the webinar content includes: suicide risk factors and warning signs; learning and applying the LEARN model; and information specific to supervisors, managers, and HR professionals. Organizations who do not currently have LMS access can purchase access to this training for their employees: contact the Workplace Learning and Performance team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- You can also watch this 80 minute pre-recorded “LEARN Saves Lives: Suicide Prevention Training” focused on parents and caregivers, offered by Forefront in partnership with the federally funded Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network (MHTTC).
- Download the one page LEARN model handout and keep it as a reference. Here is a quick summary of the steps:
- Look for signs
- Empathize and listen
- Ask about suicide
- Remove the danger
- Next steps
- For more comprehensive suicide prevention and intervention information and resources, go to the EAP’s Suicide Prevention page.
And, if you’re struggling and in need of support and guidance, or if you’re concerned about someone in your life and aren’t sure what to do, don’t hesitate to reach out to the EAP, at 1-877-313-4455.