Tag: do more

Seven Ways You Can #DoMore to Prevent Suicide Today

Suicide doesn’t start in a moment of crisis. By addressing the risk factors that contribute to suicide and building up the protective factors that keep people from considering suicide, we can save lives. These seven actions are adapted from the CDC’s seven strategies for suicide prevention. While the CDC’s strategies are largely directed toward mental health professionals and policymakers, there are ways that every one of us can do more to prevent suicide. Read through the list and see how you can take action today to save lives.

 

1. Help people facing dire financial situations or the loss of housing.

Financial stress, homelessness, or even worries about finances or eviction can increase the risk of suicide. If you know of someone going through a hard time, make sure they don’t feel alone. Work to connect them to resources that can help with both their situation and their mental health. Also, be sure to support policies that ensure people aren’t falling through the cracks.

 

2. Learn what mental health and suicide prevention resources are available in your area.

The awareness of the importance of mental health is increasing, and the stigma around talking about and seeking mental health is decreasing. This means you are more likely to hear about someone’s struggles than you might have been even a few years ago. Then the question becomes, how can you help? Lost&Found offers a variety of tools for helpers, starting with the EARS framework (described in Lost&Found’s Let’s Talk about Mental Health Guide) to guide your conversation—engage, attend, reinforce, seek. Prepare yourself for the “seek” part of the conversation—seeking help together—by becoming familiar with the mental health and suicide prevention resources available in your area. Lost&Found’s Resources page provides a good overview. The first and easiest resource to become familiar with is this number: 988. This goes to the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, and it can be reached by calling or texting.

Here is an overview of the EARS framework. Find more information about the EARS framework in the Let’s Talk About Mental Health Guide.

 

3. Reduce access to lethal means in your home, workplace, and community.

Two key pieces of data support this action: First, research shows that attempting suicide is often an impulse based on an intense emotion—the time between deciding to act and attempting suicide can be as little as 5 or 10 minutes. Second, if a person chooses a highly lethal method of suicide, but that method is not available, they tend not to substitute a different method. This means that if we can stretch the time between the decision and the attempt, and if we can make lethal means harder to access, we can save lives. Make sure medications and firearms are safely stored—in other words, behind a lock—in your home. Also look around your workplace and community—if there are places such as bridges where a suicide could take place easily, consider installing signs to encourage people to seek help.

 

4. Get involved in your community, and work to include those who might be isolated.

Studies suggest there is a correlation between social capital—meaning the sense of trust in a community and the connections between its members—and mental health. This means that all sorts of things that might not seem directly connected to mental health, such as knowing and interacting with your neighbors, block parties, and community improvement projects, are actually long-game suicide prevention strategies. In school settings, this can include participating in clubs or sports, as well as peer support programs. Consider how you could help build social capital in your community. If you are already involved in your community, invite someone else to participate with you to draw the circle of community support a little bigger.

 

5. Commit to learning—and teaching—how to deal with conflict.

Having the skills to deal with the stresses and adversities of life can help protect people from turning to suicide as an option. Programs that teach these skills, such as social-emotional learning programs for children and teens, or parenting skills and family relationship programs, can give people tools for dealing with problems—and, just as important, they can plant the idea that life’s problems can be solved, or at least managed and improved. One life skill that can help decrease stress and build relationships is learning how to deal productively with conflict. As polarization in society increases and gives people the idea that animosity in the face of conflict is a virtue, knowing how to address conflicts productively is a vital skill. This article on the basics of dealing with conflict in relationships is a good place to start.

 

6. Work to be accepting of people in marginalized demographic groups that are at higher risk of suicide.

Some groups have higher rates of suicidal behaviors than average. They include people with lower socio-economic status, people with a mental health problem, people who have previously attempted suicide, veterans and active military, people who are the victims of violence, LGBTQIA2S+ people, and members of some racial and ethnic groups. One group that is at higher risk is LGBTQIA2S+ youth. A Trevor Project survey found that 45 percent of LGBTQ youth had seriously considered suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth; 14 percent of LGBTQ youth had attempted suicide in the past year. The survey also pointed to an obvious way to help: suicide attempts were significantly lower among LGBTQ youth that were in accepting communities or who had accepting family and friends. Accepting LGBTQIA2S+ youth for who they are can save lives.

 

7. Learn how to talk about suicide in ways that don’t add to the trauma of those who have suffered a suicide loss.

The risk of suicide is higher for people who have lost a friend, family member, or other close contact to suicide. While talking about suicide is important—not talking about suicide can feed into a sense of shame for survivors of suicide loss—knowing how to talk about suicide is just as important so we don’t inadvertently add to a survivor’s pain. For example, one phrase to remove from your vocabulary is “committed suicide.” “Committed” is left over from the outdated belief that suicide is a criminal act. It’s better to say “died by suicide.” There are more suggestions for how to talk about mental health and suicide on page 26 in Lost&Found’s Let’s Talk About Mental Health Guide—download it free here.

 

You can review the CCD’s seven suicide prevention strategies here. Click on the image to see the full report.

 

This article is part of the 30 Days, 30 Stories: Let’s #DoMore to Prevent Suicide project. See a new story of resilience for every day of National Suicide Prevention Month here.

 

Lost&Found mourns the death of creator, founding President Dennis “DJ” Crawley-Smith

Dennis John “DJ” Crawley-Smith, who as a high school student was the visionary who developed the ideas and creation of Lost&Found and who led the organization in its early years, died of brain cancer Monday, March 21, at his home in Seattle. He was 30 years old.  

“For more than 15 years, I’ve called DJ a friend and partner in this work, and the news of his passing is heartbreaking for me, personally, and our team at Lost&Found,” said Lost&Found Co-Founder and Executive Director Erik Muckey. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his husband, Ben, and his parents, siblings, family, and countless friends throughout the world. DJ has touched many lives and will continue to touch lives well beyond his time here with us.” 

Crawley-Smith grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota, and graduated from Mitchell High School in 2010. His work that became Lost&Found started in 2008 as an informal Facebook network with a wish to “do more” to prevent suicide. In a year, that Facebook group grew to more than 3,600 members.  

Crawley-Smith wrote about this work in 2020: “(T)he school project that becomes Lost&Found focused heavily on making sure people didn’t feel alone. I would make weekly and monthly tasks for thousands of members to complete. We would litter the high school with sticky notes to brighten our peers’ days, write letters to our mentors and friends to show they matter, you get the idea. At the heart of this project was that we as a community can be better to our neighbors and friends to prevent mental health issues all while attempting to reduce the stigma surrounding it.” 

 

 

His own lived experience with mental health stigma, as well as stigmatization of the LGBTQ+ community during his teenage years, fueled his motivation to help others at a young age. 

He gave presentations about this work at state and national FCCLA conferences. On the way home from the 2010 National FCCLA Conference, where the presentation had been well-received, a conversation about what should happen next led to the idea to start a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention. Crawley-Smith brought together four trusted friends—Matt Bartl, Brittany Levine, Kristina (Debus) Hill, and Erik Muckey—to form the initial Lost&Found Board of Directors with him in September 2010. All five had recently graduated from Mitchell area high schools and were pursuing college degrees that fall. 

Crawley-Smith served as the President of the Board of Directors for the organization’s initial four years (2010-2014). He worked alongside Muckey and a handful of friends and classmates to launch the first Lost&Found chapter at the University of South Dakota in 2011. New chapters were formed at South Dakota State University (2012) and Dakota State University (2013) shortly thereafter. In 2014, he handed over the reins of the nonprofit to Muckey, who has led the organization since. 

A video of Lost&Found’s history through the organization’s 10-year anniversary in 2020 includes an interview with Crawley-Smith: “We really wanted to help teens and young adults who were suffering from mental health issues and suicide ideologies, and the greater communities, who are struggling so much to discuss topics that, at that point and time and even still now, are incredibly taboo.” 

In addition to Lost&Found, Crawley-Smith made a difference in many other ways. As a student at the University of South Dakota, he was a proud brother of Phi Delta Theta, as well as serving as the Vice President of the Student Government Association (2012-2013) and Executive Director of the South Dakota Student Federation (2013-2014). He was a fierce advocate for students and made significant strides to improve student health on campus, including the passage of a campus smoking ban, new sexual assault policies for the South Dakota Board of Regents, and the creation of multiple mental health student awareness programs through Lost&Found. 

After graduating from USD in 2014, he joined Susan Wismer’s South Dakota gubernatorial campaign as a Call-Time Manager. Wismer’s campaign was the first ticket for governor and lieutenant governor in South Dakota history to include two women, with Susy Blake joining Wismer on the ballot for Lieutenant Governor. 

After the campaign, Crawley-Smith joined the Peace Corps in 2015, serving in Tanzania for nearly two years until an emerging health condition—later diagnosed as brain cancer—brought him back to the United States. 

Upon his return stateside, DJ served briefly as a teacher in the Mitchell School District before completing a Master of Arts degree from the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies in 2019. Crawley-Smith then served as a Census Field Supervisor for the US Census Bureau leading into the most recent census (2020). He married his husband, Ben Crawley, on August 6, 2021.  

Mourning his death are his husband; his parents, Pat and Veronnica Smith; his siblings, Shea, Emmy, and Andrew; many family members and countless friends.  

His work with Lost&Found will live on far beyond his short time on this Earth.  

“DJ’s efforts to ‘do more to prevent suicide’ will be one of his greatest legacies, standing ahead of his time and living on for time immemorial,” Muckey said. “We are forever indebted and grateful to DJ for the vision he shared and his courage to pull together friends, family, and community members toward solving one of our country’s greatest challenges.” 

Crawley-Smith reflected on this legacy himself in 2020, at the time of Lost&Found’s 10th anniversary: “Ten years ago we were a group of fresh-into-college kids with an idea that we wanted to help people who were like us. We wanted to bring a voice to mental health well-being. Now, Lost&Found is serving communities across the State of South Dakota and only continues to grow. Heck, it even helps me. I recognize that there is a vast spectrum between ‘Lost’ and ‘Found,’ and I don’t think any of us are purely one way or the other. And I think if I am not quite sure where I land, I am probably leaning left of center. But the neat thing about that is I am working on myself. I think it is okay to not always be okay. I also think we should all continue building our abilities to support ourselves and support others.” 

 

Further reading: 

 

About Lost&Found: 

Lost&Found is a South Dakota-based 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that aims to do more to eliminate suicide among young adults in the United States. Lost&Found trains advocates, provides evaluation and research services, and connects fragmented mental health systems with relevant, evidence-based information and tools. Much of the organization’s current work is on college and tech school campuses in South Dakota and Minnesota. Lost&Found’s programs and digital content reached more than 2.3 million people in 2021. Learn more at resilienttoday.org