Communities, both in the sense of place and social groupings, are a fundamental resource for health and wellbeing. Connection, rather than isolation, can be a key ingredient for a happy, healthy life.
Good social connections and supportive relationships with friends and family are known to be vital, according to researchers. On the flip side, feeling isolated, and purposeless, can trigger feelings of hopelessness, depression and even thoughts of suicide.
The past few years have obviously presented challenges for many of us, as circumstances beyond our control have isolated us from friends and family. Organizations across the Commonwealth of Virginia are available to help people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, and those who want to learn to help them.
Now more than ever, it is important to reach out and rebuild connections, says Ames Hart, a licensed Suicide Prevention and Intervention Trainer who is also the founder of Enter Hope, LLC of Richmond, VA.
Enter Hope offers suicide intervention/prevention training using curriculum developed by LivingWorks Education, as well as consultation for those finding themselves having to navigate situations surrounding suicide and suicide attempts.
“We can lower the rate of suicides in our communities by building connectivity, making sure people know how to help and what to look for and how to be there for someone. We need to educate people to let them know it is okay to reach out when they are concerned about someone,” says Hart.
She adds, “we need to be able to reach out to those who look like they are hurting, because they may not have the ability to reach out to us.”
Feeling connected and valued by others, be they friends, family or work colleagues, is an important part of preventing suicide.
Suicide rates on college campuses across the country have risen alarmingly. The Campus Suicide Prevention Center of Virginia (CSPCV) works with colleges and universities to provide them with tools and resources for increasing student engagement.
“College campuses are great for increasing social connectedness, there are so many choices for clubs, interest groups and sports groups that people can get involved with,” says Danette Gibbs, Director, CSPCV. “But even with all these opportunities, there are students who experience loneliness and depression, just as we know in society there are people who experience these things.”
CSPCV works with faculty, academic advisors and resident life staff to help them identify those individuals who might need assistance in finding their niche on campus and get engaged in activities that interest them.
Providing young people with community service opportunities can be another effective means of getting them out of themselves and engaging with the community around them, in a useful impactful way that reinforces a sense of belonging, says Gibbs.
That sense of belonging in a community can lead to hope, a powerful deterrent to suicidal thoughts and action.
“Hope is so powerful because when we have hope, we’re willing to take another step forward, away from feelings of hopelessness,” says Hart.
To learn more about the resources available through Enter Hope, go to www.enterhope.net.
To learn more about the Campus Suicide Prevention Center of Virginia, go to http://www.campussuicidepreventionva.org/.
Other resources include: The Virginia Department of Health, https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/suicide-prevention/
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately: 1-800-273-8255.