Webinar presenter Amy Morgan answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Suicide Explained: What Leads Someone to that Moment. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: You mentioned that isolation can be part of the progression for somebody who might be suicidal or thinking about suicide. But as you also mentioned, we’re kind of living in isolation these days, right? How do we do this? How do we help them that we’re concerned about while we’re all living in isolation right now?
Amy Morgan: We are not living in isolation as much as people are saying self-isolate. It’s a term that basically means distance yourself physically from people. You’re isolated physically a lot of times like I’m in the middle of the woods, in the middle of nowhere in a camper, so I’m not seeing people but I’m not isolating myself, socially. I’m still doing Zoom with my family and talking to my kids, talking to people. FaceTime, Zoom, make phone calls, you know, wave across the street to your neighbor from the front door to the front door. Somehow keep trying to stay connected verbally, so physically you are isolating yourself, but that’s a physical thing because you cannot catch COVID-19 from a phone call. Make some calls to people that you know are by themselves. If you’re by yourself, or you don’t like the people that you’re isolated within your house, you need to talk to someone else or you’re just sick of them, pick someone else, you know call. You’re not isolated. You’re just physically distant. So think of it as a long-distance relationship that you would give effort to, or if your kids move away. You’re not going to be like, oh, well, they live in another state we should not talk to them. Keep trying, keep connecting in all the ways that you still have available to connect and talk to people because now is the time you can talk. So keep talking. keep connecting in all the ways that are still possible.
Audience Question: What’s the difference between asking if they’re having thoughts of suicide versus are they thinking of hurting themselves? What’s the distinction there?
Amy Morgan: Yep, so if you say are you thinking of hurting yourself? Someone who’s thinking of killing themselves in what they think is a pain-free way, maybe like, “No. I’m not going to hurt myself, I’m going to kill myself.” There’s a lot of self-harm that is not a suicide attempt, right? The question is for them to be asked directly so that you both are on the exact same page. You made it very clear by not saying, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” It’s showing that you’re afraid to ask that question that directly and so they’re like, yeah, they’re afraid to even ask me something but because I don’t really want to talk about it because they’re freaking out inside right now. If you said, “Look, people have thoughts of suicide. Are you having thoughts of suicide? Because it happens to a lot of people..” they can say, ”Yes, actually I’ve had that thought.” You can be like, okay, we are on the same page. We’re both talking about suicide specifically. We are both here to save your life. Now, let’s talk through it. Then you both have that out in the open. You’re not like, you know, working around the issue. You just cut straight to the chase and talk about the issue.
Audience Question: You mentioned a couple of books at the very beginning of the webinar. What were those book titles again?
Amy Morgan: Look for Dr. Thomas Joiner. He has a lot of great research, a lot of great books. Dr. Thomas Joiner one is Myths About Suicides and one is called Why People Die by Suicide.
Audience Question: Amy, is it true that people may attempt multiple times before accomplishing suicide?
Amy Morgan: Absolutely. Some people try again. Someone may be trying to get help, or want help, but may not know how to communicate that. You know, I sometimes am like “Man, I’m so stressed. I have so much going on.” But how do I communicate to my children, friends, with my grandchildren? I just say things like, ”Man, I am really – work is really, you know, whatever.” Sometimes we feel we have to use something extreme to actually get help. Teenagers or the youth, 15-24, have a very high rate of attempts compared to completions or death by suicide. Whereas the elderly have a higher rate of completion or deaths compared to just attempts. This a lot of time because they don’t know how to ask for help. They don’t have the ability to just pick up the phone and get a counselor because they are teenagers, or you know, they just don’t have resources available or don’t know what’s out there. Your brain doesn’t quit developing until you’re like 26. You just don’t have the thought capability to process through things sometimes. So a lot of times a suicide attempt is I don’t know how to ask for help but I’m going through a lot or I’m embarrassed to ask for help and I can’t take this anymore, so you may not use the totally lethal method. That’s because there is that 1% or a half percent of every decision you’ve ever made in your life. I don’t quite know this half percent of me says I’m not sure this is the decision but you know ninety-nine and a half percent of you do or, you know attempts of all sorts of things fail sometimes. Some may have totally meant to do it and it just didn’t kill the person but like I said that increases so the more times someone attempts, the more that is on their mind and that puts them at higher risk.
Audience Question: Is there evidence that someone might say that no, they’re fine in order to continue pushing help away or to further isolate themselves?
Amy Morgan: Absolutely. Everybody I know when I say, how are you, they just say fine. And I can say, “Well, I know you’re going through a lot.” “Yeah, I know but it’s fine.” That’s what we do. Like that’s why I talked about what we push people away all the time because we’re embarrassed or because we don’t want to be a burden or all of those things. That’s why I said push harder towards the person then that person is pushing to push you away sometimes. What’s the harm if I’m not going through something and someone says, “Hey Amy I heard you are going through something?”, and I’m like, ”No, I’m good”, and they say, “No, you really seem stressed”, and I’m going to be like, “Seriously I’m fine.” Is there any harm there? No, I now know this person cares and they’re pushing and that if something does happen to me, maybe they’re somebody I can reach out to in the future because they made that effort. You’re not going to hurt anything by pushing someone to find out more ever.
Audience Question: What’s the safest avenue to help a suicidal person who feels like they truly have lost everything in life?
Amy Morgan: Most suicidal people feel that way, like they truly have lost everything in their life. If you don’t know what to do, you can always take someone to the emergency room or call the crisis line. They’ll get an assessment at the E.R. and they’ll get help there which may mean being put into a facility to save their life for a few days. They will then connect them to help but call the crisis line call 911 if you think someone is eminently suicidal, get them to help immediately. Don’t leave them alone. The safest way, I’m not sure what the word safe means here in this question, but everything about a suicide intervention is about safety. It’s about saving a person’s life. So go to all lengths possible to keep someone safe.
Audience Question: Amy you talked about the isolation that people are feeling especially in the rural communities where they may not have as many resources. What do you think of these online chat Mental Health Services that have started to become more popular lately? Are they beneficial? Or really is the best solution really in-person Mental Health?
Amy Morgan: Both. Whatever works for you, do. Whatever you think might work for you, use it. If you’re not even sure it will work for you, having a Telehealth counselor is way better than no counselor. A chat counselor is way better than no counselor. Anything is better than nothing as far as getting help. So I personally have tried to do suicide interventions via text and it’s hard as an interventionist because everything you say has to be profound. Someone says I’m struggling and I’m like – normally in an in-person I’ve been like yeah… It’s different in the text. Telehealth though you’re looking at the person and you’re seeing them on the screen like a Skype or like you guys kind of saw me a while ago, do that. If it’s your only option right now do that. That’s counseling. You’re getting help from a professional. Anyway, you can get help, get help. It doesn’t matter the format. It may not be your ideal format but don’t skip on opportunities just because it’s not the ideal opportunity.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Suicide Explained: What Leads Someone to that Moment.