Hilda Marie’s worst nightmare was unfolding right before her eyes. Teetering at the edge of the platform was a woman poised to jump in front of an oncoming train. What would you do?
For Hilda, there was no question. She turned to the skills she learned during the Mental Health First Aid training she had recently completed. She contacted the station manager to secure help and calmly talked to reassure the woman until help arrived. Her actions saved a life that day.
Mental Health First Aid doesn’t teach you to be a therapist. Rather, it equips people with the tools of how to recognize signs of distress and guide a person toward appropriate treatment and other supportive measures. It teaches people how to help someone who is in crisis and how to be a pillar of support to someone living with a mental health or substance use disorder.
And as Hilda learned, it also teaches you how to keep a bad situation from becoming worse – from turning into a crisis.
Suicide is more common than you think. Someone in the United States dies by suicide every 12.3 minutes, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. That statistic can be a daughter, brother or friend dealing with the academic and social pressures of high school, or a neighbor who is going through a divorce. It can be a co-worker who is about to lose their job. It can be anyone.
If you suspect someone may be at risk for suicide, it is important to ask directly without expressing any negative judgement. Don’t shy away from using the word “suicide.” The question must be to the point. For example, you could ask:
Although we cannot prevent all suicides from happening, all of us can learn what to look for and how to act when confronted with suicidal thoughts or behaviors. When we have a better understanding and greater awareness, each of us be the one to make a difference in someone’s life. Get trained in Mental Health First Aid.