Dog Jog for Life: Unlocking the power of pets in Suicide Prevention

September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and take action to prevent suicide. However, suicide prevention is not confined to a single month; it is a year-round effort.

Understanding Suicide Prevention: Suicide prevention involves understanding risk factors, protective factors, agency resources, and the support systems comprising friends and family. It is about recognizing the signs, knowing when to intervene, and where to find help. One invaluable tool is the A.C.E. (Ask, Care, Escort) training, which underscores the importance of empathy, trust-building, and asking the critical question: “Are you thinking about suicide?”

As a guiding principle, we emphasize that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Demonstrating CARE means active listening without judgment, allowing individuals to share their stories and reasons behind their thoughts of suicide. We must respect their ambivalence and be present to understand their feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair.

Taking Action: To intervene effectively, we must defuse any suicide plan. This includes removing any potential means of self-harm and working with individuals to develop a safe plan for the present and the future. It is about getting a commitment from them on what they will do and stating what we will do to support them.

We also emphasize the importance of ESCORTING individuals in need to the best available help, ensuring they receive the assistance they require. However, in our efforts to support human lives, we sometimes overlook a remarkable source of solace and strength — our pets.

The Role of Pets in Suicide Prevention: Enter “Dog Jog for Life,” an event that embodies the spirit of suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. Our dogs often understand our moods better than we do ourselves. They offer us empathy, share in our joys, and stand by us during our darkest days. Our connection with them is unwavering.

With our pets, there is no worry about societal stigma, betrayal, rank, or titles. They provide a deep sense of trust, assuring us that we are not alone in our struggles. Our dogs are silent, respectful listeners who do not interrupt or judge. When we feel hopeless and helpless, they offer us empathy and a reason to keep going. Even in moments of ambivalence, they are consistently present and engaged.

Beyond emotional support, our dogs keep us active, ensuring we get out of the house, interact with others, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. They are true companions in every sense.

Our pets, often overlooked in discussions about suicide prevention, serve as lifelines of support. They offer comfort, companionship, and unwavering empathy when we need it most.

So, as we commemorate Suicide Prevention Month, let us not forget to hug our pets and say thanks, buddy.

This article is dedicated to my dog Buddy, a constant source of inspiration and comfort.

Dog Jog for Life 5K Fun Run is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. beginning at the Landstuhl Physical Fitness Center.