Letter: Thoughts on discussing, and preventing, suicide

Posted 5/2/24

Asking for help does not mean that you are weak – it is a sign of your strength.

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Letter: Thoughts on discussing, and preventing, suicide


To the editor:

At the Bristol Town Council meeting on April 15, the council wisely voted to adopt a resolution in support of barriers on the bridges spanning our waterways. Having lost our son Matthew to suicide, we were glad to hear council members acknowledge that one life lost to suicide is one too many.

Finally, we are very pleased that the efforts of RI Bridging the Gap are gaining traction within the community on this important harm reduction initiative.

We would like to take this opportunity, though, to clarify some facts regarding suicide, and to suggest some changes to how we discuss a complicated and difficult topic in public forums such as this.

First and foremost, suicide is preventable. As noted during the meeting, it is up to all of us to notice when a loved one might be struggling, to provide support both tangibly and emotionally, and to act when a moment of crisis arises. It is equally important to notice when you yourself may be in pain and to reach out for help. Asking for help does not mean that you are weak – it is a sign of your strength. A good support system is essential to reducing suicide rates.

That does not mean that other steps should not be taken, however. Inserting time and space between a suicidal human being and the means to complete a suicide is proven to reduce the rate of suicide. This permits your loved one some time to understand their actions and gain the benefit of hindsight. Gun locks, drug lockbags and bridge barriers all provide this critical intervention.

Consider that while short, there is a build-up to the moment of crisis. Typically, a person is experiencing the risk factors such as relationship, financial and mental health issues that become so overwhelming that they then ideate, plan and find the means to end their life. A bridge barrier can serve as an impediment to lethal means and break the cycle allowing your loved one to get the help they need to prevent further suicidal ideation. If someone can get through the intense, and short, moment of active suicidal crisis, chances are they will not die by suicide.

In closing, we again thank the Bristol Town Council for their support of bridge barriers. We also ask anyone who is struggling to reach out to a mental health professional, loved one or friend. If you are in crisis, please call or text the new national suicide prevention hotline at 988.

Lynn & John Patton

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.