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Help is available for suicide prevention

By: Carol Percy, Reporter Lincoln News Messenger
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When word went out Friday that another Lincoln man had taken his life, the community reacted with shock and sadness.

The death of local Realtor, Robert Culbertson, 41, marked the third suicide in Lincoln in about a month. Culbertson was found last Thursday in his Third Street home in Lincoln.

“The first thing most of us say to ourselves when a loved one dies is, ‘Was there something I ‘coulda, shoulda’ done,” said Lincoln clinical psychologist Almeda Decell.

The most important intervention that loved ones can do is to listen carefully to the neighbor, friend or loved one. ‘Listening’ does not mean nodding your head in agreement or saying “I know what you mean,” Decell said.

“People want to help,” Decell said, “so they sometimes tell a comparable or even competitive story to show that they know and understand. Instead, say back in paraphrase words that she/he has said to you and keep doing it as long as your loved one or neighbor continues to talk to you. In this way, you demonstrate your understanding and genuine empathy.”

Also name resources that are available, according to Decell.

“If after listening, you realize the person is feeling noticeably overwhelmed, helpless, angry at the world, anxious, or scared, do not hesitate to suggest that the person may need to speak to a licensed professional or their spiritual or religious counselor,” Decell said.

Dr. Morris Pleasant, chief of staff at Sutter Center for Psychiatry in Sacramento, said that referring loved ones to appropriate mental health resources in the community is important.

Resources might include 24-hour suicide hotlines, mental-health providers and psychiatric hospitals.

What’s important is to have them assessed by a mental health professional, Pleasant said.

In addition to hospitalization, day programs are available where a person can attend groups, talk to a psychiatrist or social worker staff and be assessed for medications, according to Pleasant.

“One of the benefits of such a program is that the person is given information and skills to deal with the factors that are the basis of their depression,” Pleasant said. “If while in the program, they become more depressed or are in imminent danger to themselves, they can then be referred to an in-patient program.”

Effective communication is one of the most important aspects of dealing with loved ones experiencing depression, said Angela Ponivas, executive director of the Lighthouse Counseling & Family Resource Center in Lincoln.

“We have to learn how to communicate more effectively face to face. There are a variety of ways that people can express their pain and it’s important that we take it seriously,” Ponivas said.

Ponivas said that people today—especially teenagers—are not communicating directly with others because of technology and consequently “people can feel very alone.”

A group of Lincoln residents, spearheaded by involved community member Kris Wyatt, is working on plans to educate Lincoln residents on suicide prevention. Interested community members can e-mail  Wyatt at k_wyatt@wildblue.net to help. The News Messenger will run updates on what the group is planning.