Now is the time to advocate for suicide prevention. Suicide claims more than 48,500 American lives each year making it the tenth leading cause of death according to the CDC. To narrow that even further, between the ages of 15 to 24, it becomes the second leading cause of death globally. Despite the devastating statistics, there are many ways every member of society can advocate and help those who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.
Julie Bloomingdale ’86, supervisor of the Boys Town National Hotline, said, “The biggest thing is not being afraid to talk about mental health and suicide. I think sometimes, especially when it comes to suicide, people think if they ask somebody directly about it that it might put the idea in their mind.” She states that that is not the case.
“If you ask somebody directly if they are having thoughts about suicide, most of the time they are going to be very honest in their response to you. They think somebody cares enough or has noticed some changes in them that they cared enough to ask how they are doing,” Bloomingdale said.
Anyone is susceptible to thoughts of suicide. Bloomingdale’s biggest piece of advice is to always ask a friend how they are doing. If that friend seems changed or may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, Bloomingdale said, “This is the one secret you don’t keep.” By contacting Boys Town National Hotline or Life Line, a life can be saved. “When someone reaches out to our hotline, our whole goal is to empower that person. We don’t want to create more chaos in their life, so we will try to help them come up with a plan that they buy in to and are willing to follow through with because they are going to be more likely to act on that plan if they were an active part in developing that plan,” Bloomingdale said.
At Boys Town, each member of the hotline is there to help and be understanding of whatever the caller may be experiencing. “It definitely takes a special type of person because you have to be able to separate yourself. It’s important to take one call at a time, and with each call, I try to give my full attention and treat that person the way I would like to be treated or that I would like a family member to be treated. Over the years, I have developed the ability to give my all in a call, and then as long as I was kind and listened and tried to empower them to change their situation in a positive manner, then I know that I’ve done my job,” Bloomingdale said.
At the Boys Town Hotline, any current world event or weather related situation that causes a stress outbreak is called current event anxiety. With the withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan, the 20 year battle has come to a conclusion. Many witnessed the Taliban take back over the country they once possessed. After the American removal, many came home to think back on what they experienced. “Being a veteran does put somebody at a greater risk for suicide,” Bloomingdale said. However, there are many efforts to provide mental health care to veterans and help them get over this distress. Life Line runs a veteran’s crisis line to help veterans remember their mission, move on, and find a safe plan to continue with their lives.
Here in Omaha, the Metro Area Suicide Coalition is a valuable resource for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. “The suicide coalition brings together wide varieties of people from the community. Schools, to social service agencies, to law enforcement, religious groups, and bringing them all to the same table to talk about suicide prevention and what we can do in our community to decrease the numbers,” Bloomingdale said.
At Marian, students can advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness by showing constant support. Counselor, Mrs. Anna Sparwasser has had first hand experience at the Boys Town Hotline for nine years. “It’s amazing to be part of that journey with people. It’s an honor. It’s a privilege to be able to help somebody when they are at a really low point in their life,” Sparwasser said. Sparwasser says that participating in walks or any event that sheds a spotlight on mental health issues is really important in showing support. “The best way to help anybody suffering from any thoughts of suicide is support, whether that’s getting them outside support or getting support within the community of Marian,” Sparwasser said.
“With suicide, it’s not very black and white. It’s very gray because there’s no set rules about it,” Bloomingdale said. Suicide can affect any one at any time. It is important to check in on friends and family and ask how they are feeling. It is better to ask now and help them get the care they need.
Boys Town 24 hour hotline number: 1-800-448-3000
Can be reached by email and text 24/7
Teen website: yourlifeyourvoice.org or ylv.org
Life Line Hotline:
Boys Town is part of Life Line which is the na- tional suicide prevention hotline. Boys Town is a local crisis center that responds to calls in the Omaha area
Life Line also is a veterans crisis line