Q&A: Answers/Actions to Combat Suicide

Dr. Marvel Harrison


Los Alamos Daily Post


Longtime Los Alamos resident and therapist, Dr. Marvel Harrison sat down with the Los Alamos Daily Post to discuss suicide and some actions for those who feel compelled to do something to help the community.


“People want to be able to help – their children, each other, coworkers, themselves. An automatic way to move through loss, pain, and trauma is to desperately attempt to make sense and order out of what has happened,” she said. “When that does not work, human nature drives most of us to try to do something to prevent the pain and strife from occurring again.”


Dr. Harrison recommended a phone app for teens and adults alike. Basically it offers critical information at your fingertips if you or someone you know or love is struggling. 


Q: What are some suicide warning signs to be aware of?

A: Some of the signs to be alert for include:

  • A person is withdrawing from friends and family; 
  • Saying he/she feels trapped, like there’s no way out; 
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking; 
  • Seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means to kill him/herself; 
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide; 
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness; 
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use? 
  • Demonstrating anxiety, agitation, insomnia or sleeping excessively; 
  • Displaying rage, uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge; and 
  • Threatening to, or talking about wanting to, hurt or kill him/herself; 

Q: What should a person do if they notice any of these behaviors in a friend, colleague or loved one?

A: Call the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line toll free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1.855.NMCRISIS (1.855.662.7474.)


Q: What other actions can family and community members take to feel they are being proactive?

A: “A Friend Asks” is a free smart-phone app that helps provide the information, tools and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. Education is key to prevention and with information like this as close as your smartphone; you could help save a life. The “A Friend Asks” app contains the following information:

  • Warning signs of suicidal ideation; 
  • How to help a friend; 
  • How to get help now; 
  • What to do and what not to do; and 
  • The B1 Program. 

Country stars Rascal Flatts is a celebrity ambassador for the Jason Foundation. The group brought about a unique program called “The B1 Pledge.” By taking a few minutes to go through “The B1 Pledge,” you can help take some of the “silence” away from the “Silent Epidemic” of youth suicide. Teens and even parents can help their friends who may be struggling by learning about the problem and making a plan to help. Taking the pledge to “B1” helps people “Be Aware, Be Able and Be Prepared to React.” To take the pledge, visit www.rascalflattsb1.com or visit the Jason Foundation at http://jasonfoundation.com/


Q: What should someone do who is in an immediate crisis?

A: Call 911. If you, or a friend, need to talk with a counselor for help or need resources available in your area, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime 24/7 at 1.800.273.8255 or use the Get Help Now button on the cell phone app.


Q: What else can people do?

A: Several examples include:

• We can create teen focus groups – non judgmental environments to learn about teen culture in Los Alamos and truly listen to their suggestions, needs and ideas.

• There are 15 minute tutorials available online through the websites above that people can watch to help them understand and know want to do in a time of crisis. 

• If someone you know is depressed, do whatever you can to keep firearms and any drugs/medications out of their access. 

• Be available, listen with your eyes as well as your heart. Children do better, the more trusting adults they have in their lives. 

• Show up when there are community events about suicide prevention. Donate snacks for the support groups.


Q: Do you have any other advice or suggestions for the community?

A: I believe a healthy community, like a healthy family is not one without problems. A healthy community is open to recognize what problems exist, gathers their resources and works together to get through struggles. Our courage lies in our willingness to learn about, from and with each other. We need to be and stay connected, to trust and know each other. It is important to educate ourselves about mental illness and depression and treatment options, to understand depression is not just about neurotransmitters and chemical imbalances. It is about people in despair, pain, loss, fear and hopelessness. We need to raise resilient children, to support our children and each other to learn good social skills and emotional fluency. It takes courage to able to reach towards and not away. Show up – to life and each other. 


Editor’s note: Marvel Harrison has a PhD in Counseling Psychology, specializing in Family Systems Therapy. She has a local private practice and served on the Surgeon General’s task force for Maternal and Child Health – Violence in the Family, Suicide Prevention committee.


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