A tragic wave of recent suicides in the Florida Keys have shellshocked our “one human family.” All too often families and friends are left with more questions than answers in the wake of suicides — often questioning what, if anything, could have been done differently. But Lynda Woods, a licensed clinical social worker who is a counselor with Keys Strong, said asking the simple question, “Are you suicidal?” can open the door for help.
“It’s hard to bring up the word suicide,” said Woods. “The topic needs to have less of a stigma attached to it so that if you see a friend or family member acting differently or isolating themselves, you can just ask the question directly.”
“Are you feeling suicidal?” A simple, yet direct question that can start the conversation for someone suffering from suicidal thoughts — while offering a gesture of love and concern to an individual feeling isolated. “Seeking help should be a part of normal conversation,” Woods said.
Hurricane Irma’s aftermath only magnified the need to address the topic of suicide in the Florida Keys. Monroe County already owns one of the highest rates of alcohol and drug use in Florida, which can escalate the symptoms of depression. There are so many people feeling hopeless,” said Woods. “The real challenge is now.”
However, aside from proactive family members and friends, there are options for those seeking help. Keys Strong received an American Red Cross grant aimed at increased communication with community members in need. Woods, who has seen over 200 people since April 16, said it begins with a referral and she can meet with individuals where they feel most comfortable — be it in their home or over a cup of coffee.
“Are you feeling suicidal?” For anyone who answers yes, Woods said the first step should be a deep breath and a phone call.
“Seek help,” said Woods, who says her phone number is a starting place, along with national hotlines, or even reaching out to family, friends or your doctor. “There are so many places to get help.”
Lynda Woods at Keys Strong can be reached at 305-942-6906; the National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255.