JOPLIN, Mo. — When someone is down or depressed, the surrounding community can have a major impact in getting that person safe and well.
The role different people play in helping someone in a mental health crisis is the next part of our series, The Suicide Crisis: Prevention, Information, and Awareness.
Debbie Fitzgerald, Dir. of Crisis Services at Ozark Center, said, “Suicide knows no boundaries and so neither should the safety part of it.”
Counselors at Freeman Ozark Center say we’re all gatekeepers of who we come into contact with each and every day.
“They may be family, friends, co-workers, classmates.”
No, one person can assist in a mental health crisis — it takes a community-wide effort.
“They may not come into contact with me, a counselor. But they may come into contact with a friend or a classmate.”
Stephen McCullough, Freeman Ozark Center Licensed Professional Counselor, said, “If you think about walking down the road, if somebody asks you how you’re doing, you say you’re fine, you’re good, even though you may not be having a good day.”
So, it’s okay to speak up if you aren’t feeling 100% mentally well, or if you notice someone else not doing well.
“We all need to play a part. We need to talk about it. And Jasper County ranks really high for death by suicide,” said Fitzgerald.
Jasper County has been one of the top ten counties in the state for death by suicide.
Debbie Fitzgerald, Dir. of Crisis Services at Ozark Center, “They may be sleeping too much, not enough, talking about death or dying, wanting to escape, definitely changes in appearance, maybe they’re coming to work late or calling in sick, or their grades suddenly start going down,” said Fitzgerald.
Ask if they’re okay and if they need any help, and urge them to seek any of the free resources in the community.
“The Crisis Center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have the hotline, the texting, the emailing. The people that can come in and be seen face to face, free of charge.”
Stephen McCullough, Freeman Ozark Center Licensed Professional Counselor, said, “When we’re looking at depression, sometimes it’s like you’re looking at the world through sunglasses, everything is dark. And we need somebody else to help us figure out a way to take those glasses off.”
The individual plays a part in their own safety too — it’s okay to not be okay — and it’s okay to tell people about your struggles.
“We try not to bring other people into it, because we don’t want to burden them. But sometimes we do have to bring somebody into it to get that outside help, support, and get some perspective.”
Because it’s easier to look at issues when they’re small, before they boil over.
“Definitely stay with them. Say, ‘I’m willing to help. I’m on your side. Can I help you make the phone call? I know some people you can talk to,'” said Fitzgerald.
“We can do a lot more for somebody who is having a suicide crisis, who is in the starting of depression or anxiety, rather than when it’s become so large they feel like the only escape is to take their life,” said McCullough.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and needs someone to talk to, we urge you to call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.