Talking frankly about suicide


By Sue Cody

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare (CBH) is taking a very active role in promoting open and honest discussions around a topic that affects so many of us.

Throughout the month, CBH – a contractor for Clatsop County’s behavioral health and developmental disabilities services – will be promoting three campaigns to help end the stigma around talking about suicide.

“Asking for help when you’re struggling is not weakness, it is bravery,” says Michael Shipley, Communications and Quality Metrics coordinator at CBH.

“It takes courage to reach out when you are struggling. What we want to do is make suicide prevention easier to talk about.” And these three campaigns were created to help make that happen.

The campaigns:

10 Questions offers answers to the most often-asked questions about who is at risk of suicide, how to help and more.

You Are Not Alone is a photo gallery of health care professionals ready to step in and assist people in need.

How to Talk About Suicide offers guidance on how you can communicate more helpfully with someone who may be suicidal. This information is so important, we’re sharing some of Michael Shipley’s advice here:

  • When starting a conversation about suicide, you need to be ready to talk openly and honestly. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has five steps for talking about suicide:
    • Ask
    • Keep them safe
    • Be there
    • Help them connect
    • Follow up
  • Keep the conversation about the person in need. Be direct, ask them: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s been shown many times that if a person is thinking about suicide, more often than not, they’ll tell you honestly.
  • If they say yes, it’s important to believe them. Every suicidal statement must be treated as genuine.
  • If you go into this situation thinking they’re exaggerating or just being dramatic, you are missing the whole point of the conversation. You can’t let your own opinions get in the way.
  • Don’t judge the person in need, it will only make things worse. They don’t need to hear that they are going to hell if they kill themselves. Or that that they’re going to destroy so many lives.
  • A lot of people who are suicidal genuinely feel they are improving the lives of others by killing themselves. It’s tragic and difficult to understand that way of thinking, but that is their reality in that moment.
  • Offer to be there with them to talk about it, to help them through that process.
  • Don’t worry about saying the “perfect” thing. Some people think, “If I say just the right thing, they’ll never feel suicidal again, they’re totally going to be OK, we’re going to cry on each other’s shoulders and everybody’s going to be fine.” But it’s not like that.
  • The reality is, the best thing you can do is to show up, be genuine and listen.
  • Don’t be afraid to get help from professionals. Ask the person in need if you can call the suicide hotline together. Offer to do that. Don’t leave them alone.
  • Always have the suicide prevention lifeline ready and offer to make the call with them. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. The local crisis line for CBH is 503-325-5724.
  • The suicide lifeline will do an assessment by trained professionals and create a plan for follow-up.
  • Be a part of the follow-up. Go to appointments with the person in need or find someone who can support them.

For more information about these three very important campaigns, please visit CBH’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts during September:


Twitter: @clatsopbh


The Way to Wellville and its sponsor, Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, support healthy lifestyles and suicide prevention.

For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at and “Be the One to Help Save a Life” at