Give Your Presence This Season and All Year Round

December 23, 2022

News Type:  Director's Corner
Author:  Shelby Rowe, SPRC Executive Director


I recently had the honor of attending a community suicide prevention training, where I sat with a group of women who were receiving formal instruction in suicide prevention for the first time. As they were learning a key prevention step—to ask someone who is struggling whether they’re thinking about suicide—I watched as they wrestled with it.

The woman next to me, a loss survivor, was determined to get comfortable asking the question but was concerned she didn’t know all the resources available for someone in crisis. I smiled and told her she didn’t need all the resources. She looked at me, confused. “You know the number for 988, you’re good at being kind, and you have such a compassionate and supportive presence,” I said. “All of those have the potential to be lifesaving.”

We seem to intuitively understand this when someone is suffering from a physical health issue. We don’t feel responsible for treating their illness, but we may feel compelled to check on them, bring them dinner, or mow their lawn. That instinct to nurture, to share our presence, is also needed by those affected by suicide, whether through the death of a loved one or their own struggles. If you’re unsure what to do or say in those cases, ask yourself what you would do if they had cancer, and then do that. Their condition may require intensive treatment, far beyond what we as friends, family, or coworkers can provide. But our kindness and support can help them feel like they are not traveling that road to recovery alone.

While this can be a season of gift-giving and celebration, it’s also a time of year when some may be feeling lonely, coping with loss, or going through a tough transition. If you’re worried about someone, reach out and let them know you’re thinking about them. Send them a funny meme, card, coffee—or one of my personal favorites, chocolate! Talk with them about their pet, favorite movie, heartbreak, or disappointment. The topic is not nearly as important as the time spent together.

The women I met at that suicide prevention training may have been new to prevention practices, but they already had some of the skills that are so central to our work—the ability to show up, be there, and connect. This season and all year round, reach out and share your presence. It’s the greatest present you can give those around you.

Warm wishes for 2023,

Shelby Rowe

SPRC Executive Director