a sharp turn or intersection up ahead, there are signs before suicide.
And like a vigilant passenger, anyone can spot the signs when someone in
their life is veering toward suicide and help them find the brakes.
Rabbi Yarden Blumstein from the Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield, Michigan educates young people to look for those signs and empower them to intervene.
and its sociology existed long before social media, but Blumstein has
seen its unprecedented effect on young people. Social media can be a
liability for teens considering suicide — and an asset for spotting the
“Society is about perfection. We read on social media who got into which schools and who accomplished what,” Blumstein describes. “But
we don’t read on social media who failed, who didn’t get in, and how
that worked out. We’re constantly feeding ourselves this perfect world that doesn’t exist. Young people are pressed to perform and succeed always.”
the flip side of the pressure teens experience through social media,
there are the signs that their friends and classmates can spot.
“Especially for teens, where they are so inter-connected in each other’s lives, when someone isolates and drops out of a group chat or someone stops performing socially, everyone else just kind of continues moving
at that same social pace. But with some very basic tools, teens can
change that pattern and learn to help someone who may be isolated.”
Blumstein teaches safeTALK, a simple yet powerful suicide prevention training that is taught in 20 countries around the world. The suicide-prevention philosophy behind LivingWorks
is that “saving lives from suicide is possible because most people with
thoughts of suicide don’t want to die — what they want is to escape
from the pain in their lives. We know that most people thinking about
suicide would choose life and try to work through their difficulties if
only they could get help from someone with the right knowledge and
In a three-hour training, Blumstein teachers participants as young as 15 to gain safeTALK context and the confidence to:
Notice and respond to situations where suicide thoughts might be present
Recognize that invitations for help are often overlooked
Move beyond the common tendency to miss, dismiss, and avoid suicide
Apply the TALK steps: Tell, Ask, Listen, and KeepSafe
Know community resources and how to connect someone with thoughts of suicide to them for further help
app-based socializing, however, preventing suicide requires something
that many may find unfamiliar and uncomfortable: asking directly.
“The number one way to know if someone is contemplating suicide,” says Blumenstein,“is to ask them directly — are they thinking about suicide? Studies show that 96% of the time a person is going to answer honestly if they are thinking about suicide. So
if someone’s not sure, they shouldn’t beat around the bush, they should
ask directly. ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself? Are you
thinking about suicide?’”
There are typically signs and there are always resources — the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 911, jHelp — and yet there’s the reality that years often pass between the onset of mental illness and treatment, if any.
difference between contemplating suicide and dying by suicide may be
the person willing to recognize those signs and relay those resources.
As Rabbi Blumstein teaches, any one of us has the potential to keep someone from skidding over the edge and help them turn onto the road to wellness.