Community, friendships can help decrease suicide risk, say experts

Published Jan 7, 2018 at 9:00am

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Madison County is encouraging lonely people to make and keep a healthy sense of community among family, friends ad co-workers as a means to maintaining mental and emotional health.

Community connection also helps in suicide prevention. Those in crisis may contact the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

“We know that to promote good physical health we are supposed to eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains, get regular exercise and maintain good sleep habits,” coalition director Susan Jenkins said.

“What we have learned through research is that social connection is also important to our physical health and well-being as well as our psychological well-being. Strong social connections and a sense of belonging can increase our longevity and lower our rates of anxiety and depression.”

University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work Professor and well-known author and Technology, Entertainment and Design Talk presenter Brene Brown said a deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people.

“We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong,” Brown said. “When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Brown added that to belong does not mean having a huge circle of family or friends or 1,000 followers on Instagram; it means to feel an internal sense of belonging and connection. This internal feeling can be generated from a one to one connection with someone we care about or while volunteering with a group of strangers.

Jenkins also encourages interpersonal contact.

“Connecting with others through social media is nice, and, frankly, convenient, but it is not the same as face to face, or voice to voice,” she said. “If someone you know seems to be isolated or disconnected, think of how you can reach out to them with a visit or a phone call. They may not have the energy to reach out to others at this point in time. Be there for them to connect, to listen and to show that someone cares.”