Whenever a well-known individual completes suicide, we often find ourselves engaged in a national conversation on the topic as we ask shake our collective head and ask ourselves "what can be done to prevent suicide from happening?"
We know that generally speaking, there are plenty of warning signs leading up to suicide. One very simple action step that we can all take is to become more educated about what those warning signs are and how to respond if we see them. Taking this action step is made even simpler by the widespread availability of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. MHFA training teaches community members - parents, partners, neighbors, clergy, friends, co-workers, teachers, etc. - how to spot early warning signs of a possible mental illness, substance use disorder and suicide, and the training provides a concrete action plan and resources for how to respond until professional help arrives or the crisis resolves itself.
With understanding that we are more likely to encounter a person experiencing a mental health crisis than a medical emergency, there is no reason why being trained in Mental Health First Aid should not be at the very least just as common as being trained in medical first aid or CPR. In fact, many communities across the country are aiming to make this a reality by offering MHFA training at little or no cost to community members. In my city of Philadelphia for instance, MHFA training has been made available free of charge to any individual living or working in the city, and already more than 10,000 Philadelphians have been certified since 2012.
Suicide is a largely preventable death. The answer is actually quite simple when asking yourself the question of "what can be done to prevent suicide from happening?": Go online today and sign up for a MHFA training near you. Learning the warning signs and how to respond is the answer to that question.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.