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    “Connect to Protect”… Virtually: Tips for Reaching Out to a Friend in Need

    Connect to Protect Virtually

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Lewis | 200918-N-TR141-0024 NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (Sept. 18, 2020) Yeoman 2nd Class...... read more read more



    Story by Courtney Pollock 

    Naval Station Rota, Spain

    If you have spent any time on social media, you’ve probably seen a questionable or disturbing post on a friend’s page. One that makes you stop and think “did they really mean it or is it their dark sense of humor?” In this digital world, it’s sometimes hard to fully know whether a friend’s melancholy post is just a down day or if it’s a call for help.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 130 Americans commit suicide per day. This makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the 4th leading cause amongst adults aged 18-65.

    Not everyone will put out a plea for help, which is why if a post makes you stop and wonder, you should reach out to your friend.

    “It's important to take the post seriously,” said Lt. Cmdr. Samantha Stopford, behavioral health consultant at U.S. Naval Hospital Medical Homeport Clinic, Rota. “When someone is struggling, it can be difficult for them to remember that people care.”

    Showing you care during this pandemic may not be the usual personal contact one gravitates toward like stopping by their house, going out for lunch, or physical affection. Given the current restrictions, showing you care can be simply picking up the phone and calling the person, or reaching out through some other virtual means. One thing all the experts insisted on was that when you do reach the person, you need to be direct – “are you thinking about suicide?”

    “It’s a difficult question to ask and there will likely be a hard conversation to follow but it is one you will not regret having but could regret not having,” said Kathy Muscari, clinical counselor of Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) Rota.

    Muscari recommended preparing for the conversation by knowing available resources, being straightforward and specific with your questions, and not conveying judgement on the person.

    Cmdr. Nathan Rice, chaplain at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota Chapel, and CREDO facilitator Dr. Debbi Byrd teach the installation’s Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop. The two-day training equips participants to be able to provide skilled, life-saving suicide intervention to people that are struggling with suicide ideation.

    “In ASIST, Dr. Byrd and I teach about the importance of not being afraid to ask those challenging questions when you have ‘that feeling’ or are concerned for a loved one or friend,” said Rice. “You ask directly, if they are thinking about suicide.”

    Byrd explains that due to the pandemic, stress, anxiety and depression are even more prevalent this year.

    “Besides the loss of freedom of movement, many of us have experienced losses related to jobs, health, finances, and even friends and family members,” she said.

    Dr. Kristin Himmler, FFSC Rota adolescent youth counselor, explained that while the practice of “social distancing” has worked to keep us physically healthy, self-isolation has been difficult for many – especially those who are stressed or in the midst of a personal crisis.

    Himmler recommended reaching out to the person to create a virtual presence which sends the message that you care about the person and want to support them. She suggested asking some basic questions to get a feeling for how the person is feeling. Questions such as “what they are doing right now, what they enjoy doing at home, what hobbies they have or would like to start, and what their days are like.”

    She also suggested connecting through a video chat which will allow you to pick up on additional clues. Even if you determine your friend is just having a bad day, the conversation could turn into a positive conversation for both participants and further strengthen the friendship.

    While the pandemic has forced the cancellation and restriction of normal social activities, there are creative ways to stay connected with friends. Veronica Wruble, clinical counselor at FFSC Rota, has some additional tips for helping to stay connected, but virtually.

    - Set a weekly alarm to check in with someone via phone call, text, and/or private message.
    - Be persistent, and follow up if there’s no response in a reasonable amount of time.
    - Set response expectations if you may not reply immediately due to schedule.
    - Lead with self-disclosure such as, "I've been feeling pretty down about _____ lately, how about are you feeling?"
    - Use the buddy system and pick two people to regularly check in with.
    - Two is one, one is none. If you're concerned about someone specific, enlist help from another friend to check in when you are unable.

    Wruble explained that while these small and consistent steps may seem insignificant, they could be invaluable to the recipient and protecting what matters most, each other. While not everyone may reach out for help, it’s important that when someone does, someone responds to help them get the care they need.

    September is Suicide Prevention Month and this year's theme is “Connect to Protect.” By being aware and responsive, asking the hard questions and providing resources, you can take a step toward protecting a loved one’s life. If you or a friend is contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or their website for information and resources.



    Date Taken: 09.23.2020
    Date Posted: 09.23.2020 09:52
    Story ID: 378445
    Location: ROTA, ES 

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