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Sharp Health News

How to help those at risk for suicide

Sept. 7, 2016

How to help those at risk for suicide

Kelsey Grover and her mother, Sharp Memorial Hospital nurse navigator Terri Wyatt, hold a photo of Preston Grover, who died by suicide in 2011.

Preston Grover loved music. He was a talented graphic designer with a promising career ahead. His family and friends adored him.

And one night, Preston died by suicide — just a few days after he suddenly began experiencing delusions and paranoia. His family believes Preston suffered an episode of psychosis after taking drugs at a music festival. He was 23 years old.

Preston’s mother, Terri Wyatt, shares this story at the beginning of a new class she’s leading at Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion, where she works as a nurse navigator for cancer patients. The class, called safeTALK, trains participants how to recognize if someone is considering suicide and how to respond. Wyatt’s daughter, Kelsey Grover, a child life specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital, co-teaches the class.

“You never know when you might be in a situation where someone needs your help,” Wyatt says. “Our goal is to try to make a difference, to hopefully prevent someone from going through what we’ve gone through — even if it’s just one person.”

The safeTALK training — the word “safe” is an acronym that stands for “Suicide Alertness For Everyone” — is aimed at training individuals to identify how people at risk reach out for help, either consciously or unconsciously. Participants learn how to ask someone directly if they are thinking about suicide and how to connect them to lifesaving resources.

Attendees have included people who suspect a loved one is considering suicide, those who’ve experienced a loss from suicide in the past and individuals who work in fields with “at-risk” groups, such as veterans and people with mental health challenges. One participant phoned Wyatt following a safeTALK class to say the training may have saved her son’s life; she recognized some of the warning signs in his behavior and was able to get him help.

“Mental illness is not something that people choose,” says Kelsey Grover. “This training helps us feel less afraid to talk about suicide. And by talking about it more, we are more likely to help a person in need.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, seek help as soon as possible. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

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Suicide Warning Signs
From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

  1. A change in behavior or the presence of new behaviors, particularly following a painful event, loss or change
  2. Talking about being a burden to others, feeling trapped, having no reason to live
  3. Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  4. Acting recklessly
  5. Withdrawing from friends and family
  6. Sleeping too much or too little
  7. Visiting or calling people to say good-bye
  8. Displaying signs of depression, loss of interest, rage, anxiety and humiliation

The next safeTALK class will be held Saturday, Nov. 5 at Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion. Registration is free at 1-800-82-SHARP or online. The class, which is sponsored by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, is free and open to individuals ages 15 and older.

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