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EDITORIAL — Know someone hurting? Listening could help

You have the power to save someone’s life.

September is Suicide Awareness Month, and healthcare professionals stress that a simple question can oftentimes make a huge difference.

“(Suicide) is an impulsive act, but it may be an act that is a long time coming,” according to Rita Drake. “So, if anywhere in that chain, one person can say, ‘Hey, are you OK? Do you want to tell me what’s wrong? That can mean all the difference in the world and break that chain of thought.”

Drake is the clinical supervisor of intake and a licensed counselor for Spindletop Center.

The community mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities center is a wonderful resource this time of year, as we all take a moment to understand mental illness and what roles we can all play in treating these illnesses.

Spindletop offers mental health services like outpatient therapy, counseling and screening. The Crisis Helpline, which is open 24/7, can be reached at 1-800-937-8097.

According to the Associated Press, The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ social media page — facebook.com/NAMI — provides information about events and a safe space for people to discuss their concerns.

But not all social media groups are created equal.

Dr. Isaiah Pickens, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles and founder of IOpening Enterprises, believes that, when used the wrong way, social media can have a negative impact.

“Social media can also exacerbate problems if it’s not the right kind of community and if it’s a community that potentially responds in ways that are toxic,” Pickens said. “When people sometimes try to share their experience, their experience is received in a way that increases the type of harassment, intimidation and bullying that happens.”

He cautions that people should think of social media as a secondary tool and get help from professionals and traditional support groups. Seek out groups on social media that share your problem, he said, and give yourself permission to hold back some aspects of your life. It’s important to set boundaries.

If you or someone you know has talked about contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For those who suspect someone they know or care about is suffering, it’s vital to understand that listening is the most important step in helping someone who is considering suicide.

“But asking is that vital chance for hope that changes everything,” Drake told The Port Arthur News this week.

Those contemplating suicide sometimes have endured trauma that occurred in their life — loss of a loved one, relationship, job or home. Those issues, along with physical and mental illness, work together to create a feeling of despair.

Now, more than ever, is a perfect time to take stock of those around you, look someone in the eyes and ask, “Hey, are you OK?”