If you ever wonder or worry about a colleague, student, peer, friend, or neighbor, you have permission to ask,
“Are you OK?” It is normal for some questions to arise. “Is this something I should do?” Yes. “Am I going to make things worse?” No. “What can I do anyway?”
A lot. A conversation could change a life.
We can sense something, think about it, and talk to others, but without moving towards a conversation with the person that worries you, there is no way to know what might be going on.
Far more people have thoughts of suicide than attempt or die by suicide. When we lean into the people in our midst with care and compassion, it creates a meaningful connection, and that is doing something.
In response to the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, the 988 Suicide and Crisis line (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) went live on July 16, 2022. It simplifies getting help by using an easy-to-remember, three-digit number, and it offers 24/7 call, text and chat access to trained crisis counselors. The line is for anyone experiencing suicidal, substance abuse and/or any mental health concerns, as well as loved ones who may also need crisis support.
How do we talk about these things?
To ask or not to ask. Consensus lands on the side of asking and then modifying as needed depending on what we are told by our peer/friend/colleague. Often, people say they appreciate the acknowledgment from others noticing or “seeing” them. A sample question to connect could be: “It seems like you have been going through a lot lately. Are you okay?” For those who prefer not to share, a simple “Thank you for asking, I/we are managing.
I really appreciate your concern” can be a comfortable response. If you are concerned, it can help to ask twice, “No, really, are you ok?”
After an exchange or interaction, offering to check in again is also a caring, helpful action. On any given day at work, we manage our workflow as well as our lives which are often stressful. In the words of Kevin Love, NBA Professional Athlete, “Everyone is going through something.” We don’t have to be experts in counseling to tune in to the people in our lives and listen.
But what do I say?
General politeness and etiquette often guide what we ask others at work or even at home about subjects that are personal. Many people prefer to wait for spontaneous sharing rather than to ask others what might be going on in their lives. It is important, though,
to know there are events that are stressful or at least disruptive to most people in the US that are personal/private. These are the times people need us most. They are:
- Death of a loved one
- Major illness or injury
- Job loss
Simply knowing of those events is an opening to tune in and check in.
-Bronwyn Threlkeld-Wiegand, Director of UI Employee Assistance Program
UI Employee Assistance Program (UI EAP) is here to discuss these matters, consult with supervisors and staff around issues relating to mental health and well-being and more.
UI EAP provides integrated services to faculty, staff, and their family members to promote emotional well-being and to increase engagement and productivity among members of
our UI community.
• Confidential, short-term counseling to faculty, staff, and their families
• Consultation for supervisors/managers
• Information and referral to community resources
If you are a faculty or staff member working with a student in need, you can direct them to multiple resources on campus.
• University Counseling Services: counseling.uiowa.edu or call (319)-335-7294
• Student Crisis Line: 24/7 access to help:
mentalhealth.uiowa.edu/ui-support-and-crisis-line or call/text 844-461-5420
To learn more visit: 988lifeline.org
This article originally appeared in the liveWELL 2022 Fall Employee Well-Being Newsletter.