Suicide prevention when social distancing

June 24, 2020

If you’ve attended any of our suicide prevention trainings, you may recall that isolation is one of the possible warning signs that someone may be considering suicide. We encourage you to be “noticers” (not in Websters Dictionary – yet!) and reach out when you observe someone withdrawing or not acting like themselves.

It’s really hard to be a “noticer” in the current environment of social distancing and quarantine. And it could have a devastating effect on individuals with depression who find themselves held hostage with their own thoughts. As a nation, we’re heavily focused on physical safety – hygiene practices, quarantines, and executive orders. As a community and as a family, we also need to focus on individual emotional and psychological safety.

What can we do?

Gratefully, we’re seeing a lot of creativity across Planning District 16. We’re seeing storefronts in downtown Fredericksburg post encouraging messages. We’re seeing teachers drive through neighborhoods and make their own parades. We’re seeing virtual YMCA classes and lots of celebrities (even a few of our favorite RACSB Prevention Staff members) read books for online story time. We’re seeing people take advantage of the warming weather to take more walks. We’re seeing lots of Facebook challenges to share photos and some happy news.

This creativity and these activities help to support connection. They help to support emotional and psychological safety. Because when we feel safe and connected, we’re better able to learn; we’re better able to problem solve; we’re better able to make decisions.

If you’re personally struggling with the mental toll of physical isolation, please know you are not alone. Please know there are countless people also struggling with the COVID-19 world today. Please also know there are countless people who want to help.

  • Reach Out. Call, text, message, email, window sign. Maybe even start up an old school pen pal relationship with someone in a different city or state.
  • Talk. It’s hard to share our feelings and emotions. But when we do, we learn we’re not alone; that others may share our same fears, feelings, and struggles.
  • Take a Walk. Explore our local parks and historic locations.
  • Find a virtual workout from the YMCA (or even Thor aka Chris Hemsworth). Several local yoga studios are offering virtual classes.
  • Journal. Meditate. Make a gratitude list.
  • Learn something new. Check out Fredericksburg Parent and Family Magazine or Macaroni Kid – they have done the work to create awesome lists of virtual tours/field trips, zoo animal cams, and experiences.

If you’re concerned about a loved one, here are some tips from the Mental Health First Aid:

  1. Treat the person with respect and dignity. Listen nonjudgmentally. Be respectful of the person’s privacy and confidentiality.
  2. Offer consistent emotional support and understanding. We all benefit from additional love and understanding. Remember to be empathetic, compassionate, and patient.
  3. Have realistic expectations. Accept the person as they are. Tough times can make it harder than usual to do everyday activities like cleaning the house, paying bills or feeding the dog.
  4. Give the person hope. Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, they will feel better and there is hope for a more positive future.
  5. Provide practical help. Offer help with overwhelming tasks but be careful not to take over or encourage dependency. For example, offer to bring groceries over.
  6. Offer information. Provide information and resources for additional support, including self-help strategies and professional help.
If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression, or anxiety, or like you want to harm yourself or others call RACSB Emergency Services Therapists at 540-373-6876. They’re available 24/7. You can also call 911 and ask for a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) trained officer.

You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text MHFA to 741741 to talk to a Crisis Text Line counselor.

Take advantage of virtual telehealth

Your area Community Services Boards can help. See the map for your area CSB on

Take advantage of your employer assistance program (EAP).

And, here are the “Do not’s":

  1. Don’t tell someone to “snap out of it” or to “get over it.” (Remember, it’s not that easy and it’s not helpful.)
  2. Don’t use a patronizing tone of voice or a facial expression that shows an extreme look of concern. (Remember, the “Golden Rule.”)
  3. Don’t ignore, disagree with or dismiss the person’s feelings by attempting to say something positive like, “You don’t seem that bad to me.” (Remember those important “I” statements.)

Stay well!

SAMHSA Talking Care of Your Behavioral Health: Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During and Infectious Disease Outbreak

By Michelle Wagaman, Rappahannock Area CSB

Do you need support?

Are you or someone you know thinking of suicide?

Call or Text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

If you have an immediate medical emergency, call 911