Providence Swedish: Help Prevent Death by Suicide by Watching for the Signs

Know what to look for, how to react


Submitted by Providence Swedish

School is back in session. The seasons are changing. These events, even for someone who doesn’t have a history of mental health illness, can be stressors that push them into a behavioral health crisis.

“It’s important to be aware of those around you, what life adjustments are happening that could trigger a behavioral health crisis, such as thoughts of suicide,” said South Puget Sound Chief Nursing Officer Suzie Scott.

In South Puget Sound, the St. Peter Hospital Emergency Department (ED) is seeing an increase in patients suffering from depression, psychosis and those attempting suicide. The ED sees 8-10 such patients on any given day. Recently, they saw 19 behavioral health patients in a single day.

“The definition of a stressful life event is very, very different for everyone, that’s why it’s so important that loved ones are aware of triggers, and how to react if they suspect their family member or friend may be contemplating suicide,” said Julie Heerlyn, director of emergency services at St. Peter Hospital.

It’s key to look and listen:

  • Look for changes in or unexplainable behavior:
    • For example: isolation, increased substance (including alcohol) use, skipping school.
  • Listen for statements:
    • “I can’t manage this,” “I don’t want to go on,” I’m going to hurt or kill myself.”

“Even if someone who’s used these tactics or statements before, maybe to gain attention, they need to be addressed,” said Tendai Masiriri, director of Behavioral Health for Providence South Puget Sound. “Reassure the person that you care about them. Provide a supportive presence/active listening and ask how you can help. Remove weapons and sharp objects from access (locking them or removing them from the house). Remind them help is available and support them to seek help.”

Where To Go For Help?

It’s important to connect with a person trained in speaking with someone contemplating suicide. Call or text 988, or chat online at 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. There, a real person in English or Spanish can help triage the situation and call 911 if necessary. Another local resource is Olympic Health and Recovery Services (Designated Crisis Response Services).

“If you have a family member in crisis, calling 911 and using law enforcement may seem drastic, but often what needs to happen,” added Heerlyn.

If you come to the Providence St. Peter Emergency Department, you can expect to be seen first by a medical doctor to rule out medical concerns and then to be seen by a mental health professional for evaluation. “This will be extensive, to see if additional resources are needed,” said Heerlyn.

Inpatient and outpatient options are also available.


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