Reach out to a person thinking of suicide

Michael Faccini


Last week, the world learned of the deaths by suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, legends in their respective fields. Fans, friends and family all find themselves wondering why; they were both successful and seemed happy. News outlets and social media accounts are sending out information on Suicide Lifeline, encouraging those struggling with thoughts of suicide to seek help. Many of us find ourselves asking: “What can we do?”

There is a lot we can do as a Jewish community. The first thing is to realize that there are members of the Jewish community who experience thoughts of suicide. Judaism can be a tremendous asset for those struggling with thoughts of suicide, but it doesn’t exempt anyone from experiencing them. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.9 percent of adults report experiencing thoughts of suicide. Suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the CDC. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise (the other two are Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses).

Some of those adults experiencing thoughts of suicide are your friends, your family, the person sitting in front of you at services, people around the table at Shabbat and maybe even you. Until we realize that this affects us, too, we are powerless to prevent suicide.

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The next most important thing we can do is reach out. When you see someone at services or lunch who seems to be having a hard time, ask how he or she is doing. Be ready and open to hearing a difficult answer, because that is the only way someone will share it. 

If someone says he or she is struggling, connect that person to help, which includes crisis lines such as Behavioral Health Response (314-469-6644), Jewish Family & Children’s Service and community rabbis. Listen to his struggles without trying to solve his problems. Offer her a seat next to you at services or invite her to your next Shabbat dinner. Thoughts of suicide make a person feel incredibly alone. By inviting people in, you give them a chance to see that they’re not alone.

Don’t let things stop there. Addressing thoughts of suicide is a long-term and often difficult process. Continuing to check in with someone shows that you are invested in the success of that process and sends the message that he or she should be, too. 

None of this is easy. Make sure you are also getting support, especially if you have struggled with thoughts of suicide in the past. This is difficult but holy work. 

As it says in Mishnah Sanhedrin, “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.”

Michael Faccini, MSW, LMSW, is the manager of Jewish Community Mental Health Care at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. He works to connect Jewish individuals and families to mental health and/or substance abuse services and provides regular followup to ensure success. If you or a loved one is looking for resources, you can reach Faccini at 314-812-9307.