By Kylie Lambert, LCSW, LCAS-A

It’s hard to know where to begin when discussing the sensitive nature of suicide. However, it is absolutely a conversation worth having, especially with the media coverage of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s untimely death, as well as the rising popularity of the Netflix’s 13 Reason Why series. When hearing about recent suicides, the question that is always asked is “what could I have done to help?”

What we need to do now is have the open discussion BEFORE it happens again, as opposed to after we hear about the deaths. This helps to eliminate the mental health stigma and empowers us to engage, ask questions and stay connected with ourselves and others in our lives.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends the following five ways to have the help and aid someone struggling with mental health concerns:

1. Ask

The best thing we can do in any interpersonal relationships is to ask how someone is doing and feeling. By asking in a kind, genuine way, we are giving the other person a safe place to talk about what how they are feeling and find validation in their struggles.

2. Keep Them Safe

By asking a person how they are feeling, we are also creating the opportunity to nurture a safe, trusting space for them to actually talk honestly about their feelings. Let them know you are asking them because you care about them, and you are a safe person that will honor their vulnerability.

3. Be There

Be accountable and stay present. If they need your help, do your best to find the time to listen to their thoughts or worries, while also maintaining your own personal boundaries. In order to help others, we have to make sure we are taking care of our needs. Communicate what you can and cannot do, so you both are aware of each other’s limitations.

4. Help Them Get Connected

Offer to help or sit with them as they search or call for professional help and relief. Sometimes the physical act of being with someone can do and mean more to them than any advice or words can.

5. Follow Through

While getting them connected is important, it is also essential to ask how treatment is going and continue to engage with this person, even after they decide to get connected. Not only will it help to destigmatize mental health treatment, but it also allows them to feel continuous social support, which is proven to help improve one’s overall mood and increase mental health treatment outcomes.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, do not be afraid to ask or let others know you are going through a difficult time. It can be hard to ask for help – for fear that we may seem weak or broken. However, strength and resiliency is in asking for help, and you are worth receiving it.

For more information, please visit Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call their 24/7 lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.