In Nov. 3, PCC Health and Wellness held a suicide prevention training workshop presented by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services and hosted by project manager, Sandri Kramer. Kramer spoke about the statistics of suicides, reasons as to why people attempt and described the steps to take when approaching someone you believe to be suicidal.
With the recent suicide of former PCC student Gordon Yu, the workshop was presented in an effort to raise suicide awareness and to teach people about what can be done to help.
Kramer began speaking about the statistics of suicide by asking the audience what genders and ages they believed were at most risk and what influences them to attempt suicide. An influx of answers from the crowd poured in, ranging from “teens” to “children” to “males” to “elders.”
Kramer revealed that the elderly were at high levels of danger. She explained how loss of family and friends, financial stress, diseases and the feeling of burdensomeness are what impact elders the most.
“The thing is that a person who is really focused on dying, really does feel that the world is a better place without them,” said Kramer.
The population facing the second highest risk are teens and young adults.
“For that population, suicide is the second leading cause of death,” said Kramer. “One of the things that this particular population is particularly vulnerable to is suicide contagion.” She mentions that the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” gives suicide exposure to teens and can trigger emotions that they already struggle with.
She began to speak about the middle-aged being the number one group at risk, specifically 45-50 year olds. Middle aged people, mostly men, face more issues than any other age group. Some of these issues include marriages, divorce, financial stress, social status and children. These issues cause people to fall into depression or develop other mental health issues.
“90 percent of all suicides can be associated with mental illness,” Kramer explained.
Kramer told the story of Kevin Hines who attempted suicide at the age of 19 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Hines is a part of the 2 percent of survivors.
“I was at the Golden Gate Bridge in so much mental emotional and physical pain because of my brain disease bipolar disorder, I could see no other option. I never wanted to die, I believed I had to,” said Hines in his short documentary, ‘The 2%.’”
While the number one mental disorder associated with suicide is depression, there are many other mental disorders as well.
“We see these other disorders, bipolar disorders and psychotic disorders. What we often see with those is lower adherence to medication because of all the side effects that come with it,” said Kramer.
Kramer concluded the workshop by teaching the audience how to approach and establish safety for someone who they believe to be suicidal. She broke it down into three steps: asking, assessing risk and establishing safety.
Kramer further explained that when asking an individual about suicide, it’s best to take a cautious approach and say “Have things gotten so hard that you’ve had thoughts of suicide?” or “Sometimes when people are going through what you’ve been through, they have thoughts of suicide. Is this something you’ve been thinking about?” Taking this first step in asking them this question, is showing them you care.
If the person says “yes” then the best way to asses risk is by being empathetic as opposed to sympathetic. Kramer briefly mentions author Brené Brown’s views on sympathy versus empathy.
“Empathy fuels connection, sympathy drives disconnection,” Brown said in her speech The Power of Vulnerability. Brown continued to explain that a connection is what helps make a situation better and empathy allows you to make that connection. “Empathy is feeling with people,” she said.
Calling a crisis line and seeking help is how a person should establish safety for themselves and everyone else involved in the situation.
The suicide prevention crisis line phone number is 1-800-273-8255.