Expert: 'Directly ask' someone if they're contemplating suicide

Cary Ashby • Jan 15, 2020 at 1:00 PM

It’s OK to ask someone if he or she is contemplating suicide — even if it creates an awkward conversation, a local mental health expert said.

“If you suspect that your friend is thinking about suicide, go ahead and directly ask them. Many people think that if you talk about suicide, it will cause your friend to follow through with it,” said Kristen Cardone, executive director of the Huron County Board of Mental Health and Addiction Services

Cardone said it’s a common misconception that simply talking about suicide makes the person think of doing it.

“That’s not true,” she said, noting the importance of being direct with the person. “(It’s) directly saying, ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?,’ which is a hard question to ask, even sometimes for clinicians. It’s getting to the point.

“This is a common myth; talking about suicide does not cause it. Reaching out to your friend will let him (or) her know that you are there and more importantly, that you care.”

Cardone said it’s important to let the person talk, be present for your friend and to call law enforcement. 

“If someone is suicidal or they believe they are at risk, contact law enforcement,” she added. “If it is in person, stay there with the person. Make sure they are safe until someone gets there. If it’s over the phone, try to stay in contact with them, keep them on the phone. If it’s texting, call them and then have someone else call law enforcement while you keep that person on the phone to make sure they’re OK.”

It may feel like a long time you’re with a suicidal person, but Cardone said people should take cues from 9-1-1 dispatchers while they’re waiting for authorities “because they are trained in crisis de-escalation.”

Western Reserve Local Schools is dealing with the aftermath of the suicide Friday of freshman Ethan DeChant.

“The Rider community extends its deepest sympathies to Ethan's family and friends,” according to the social media announcement from Western. “If you have any questions or concerns about your child, you are urged to contact building administration or school counseling departments via phone or email.”

The Huron County Sheriff’s Office received the report of a suicidal male in Wakeman at 4 p.m. Friday. Four deputies, a detective, Sheriff Todd Corbin and Huron County Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Harwood responded to the residence.

“As of right now, everything appears to be a suicide,” Chief Deputy Dave Ditz said.

DeChant’s death comes after the Nov. 11 suicide in Toledo by Western junior Damian G. Henning, 17, of Norwalk.


Paying ‘extra attention’

Superintendent Rodge Wilson said there has been “an upswing nationally” in the suicides of teens and one of the causes possibly could be the “social pressure sweeping our country right now.”

“Child deaths are on the rise; we all need to be aware of that,” he added.

Cardone agreed. She said having two recent suicides in the same school district “is very much a concern.”

“I think extra attention needs to be given to how do we help the students. How do we recover from this? How do they deal with their grief — what the long-term impact of it is?,” she added.

When asked what can school officials and students do to prevent suicides, Cardone said it’s a matter of paying attention, especially since “friends know each other very well.”

“Teachers know their students pretty well because they are with them, day in and day out. So pay attention to their behavior. If you see a change in their behavior, ask them. Initiate the question (and) ask the question: ‘How are you? What’s going on? I’ve noticed X, Y and Z.’ … See what they have to say.

“A lot of times I don’t think people say anything because it’s a difficult conversation to have. If people don’t ask the question, then we’re sitting in silence,” Cardone said.

There are several resources for people in crisis.

The Firelands Crisis Hotline number is 1-800-826-1306 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

People also can use the Crisis Text Line.

“If you text ‘help’ to 741741, there are licensed counselors available 24-7,” Cardone said.

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