If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.
― Betty Reese
Superbowl XLI took place in February of 2007 in Miami, Florida. It takes months of practice, studying and hard work for the teams to qualify for the Superbowl. It also takes months of practice, studying and hard work for those involved with security to be properly prepared for both the influx of people, as well as the potential threats to the city.
Prior to the Superbowl, Miami International Airport hired the former director of security at Ben-Gurion Airport and the Israel Airports Authority to train the airport staff on how to spot a potential terrorist. The staff at Miami International Airport were trained with something called “Behavior Pattern Recognition.” Every single employee, whether airport police, a cashier, janitor or even a desk worker was trained in how to notice suspicious behavior, and what to do when they see someone behaving suspiciously.
To put this into perspective, during the busiest time at the airport, the airport authorities knew they didn’t have an infinite number of policemen at their disposal. So how did they protect the airport? By training everyone to know the basics, and making them comfortable enough that if they saw something suspicious, they knew who to call.
This principle can also be applied to suicide prevention. Recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have led to a plethora of articles aimed at teaching people the basics about depression and suicide. Unfortunately, there are many who are choosing to ignore these articles. Just as Miami International Airport trained everyone in the basics about spotting a terrorist, we all need to be trained in the basics about depression and suicide.
What should we say?
What shouldn’t we say?
What do we do if we think our friend is suicidal?
How can we tell if they are being serious?
here are many books and articles on the subject, here are a few of my favorites:
- The NY Times wrote a wonderful article about What to Do When a Loved One Is Severely Depressed .
- The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention has a list of Risk Factors and Warning Signs.
- Likewise, Mental Health Daily describes 16 Suicide Warning Signs. Finally, here is a piece titled 10 Things You Need to Know About Suicide from a Survivor.
You may not be a mental health professional, but you might end up being the “emergency responder,” the one first on call, saddled with the task of making sure that things don’t get worse before those who are more skilled arrive.
Do you know what to do?
Take the time to learn how to spot someone who is suicidal, and how to intervene.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice specializing in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child and teen safety. He is available as a resource to rabbis and organizations and can be reached vi email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Yisroel on LinkedIn here.