National Suicide Prevention Month: Recognize and Respond!


23 Sep

I recently took a training with both South Carolina Youth Suicide Prevent Initiative and Connect to learn more information about suicide prevention to education myself on ways to become a better advocate and skilled mental health professional. My mission is continue to educate the public on suicide prevention, to bring awareness. The more you know, the better the response! Listed below are some facts, ways to respond, and statistic regarding suicide that I learned from the training, with my response incorporated:

Suicide is a generally preventable. Everyone has a role in suicide prevention. If you know someone who has been acting different and seem a little more down than usual, check on them. Refer them to a mental health professional. Give them the number to the suicide prevention hotline. Do something! If you do not know what to do, ask for someone who you may think may know what to do.  

Suicide is a public health issue. We need to talk openly about the issue of suicide. The misconception is that if we talk about suicide, it’s going to influence the person to act on it. This is false! Talking about it brings awareness and eliminates the stigma associated with getting professional help.

There is a great deal of stigma and isolation around the issue of suicide. Talking about suicide will help to reduce the stigma and shame. It may be hard for a person to open up about suicidal ideation because of the stigma associated, as well as feelings of shame. Make the attempt to be more self-aware and become a safe haven for someone to be comfortable to share their feelings with you. Refer the person to a professional and let them know that you are in their corner as a support system.

All warning signs should be taken seriously. Get help if someone is talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.

Most people who die by suicide (2/3) communicate their plans in advance. Restrict access to firearms and other lethal means to save a life. Make the home as safe as possible!

Most people (90%) who die by suicide have some type of mental health and/or a substance use problem. Education about mental health problems can lead to the right services.

Statistics

Did you know that there are over 42,000 people nationally each year? I was also surprised to learn that someone attempts suicide every minute in the U.S. and that someone dies by suicide every 12 minutes.

Know the WARNING SIGNS

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.

  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means.

  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.

  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities

  • Increased alcohol or drug use.

  • Feeling anxious or agitated, having difficulty sleeping, or sleeping all of the time.

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Feeling rage, having uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge

  • Feeling trapped

  • Withdrawing from family, friends, or society

  • Having dramatic changes in mood

  • Seeing no reason for living or lacking purpose in life

****If you feel that someone is in immediate danger call 911 or take them to the emergency room. DO NOT leave them along, even for a brief moment.****

Be aware of RISK FACTORS

While risk factors do not predict the immediate danger for a particular individual, they are important for knowing the increased risks for suicide and other high risk behaviors. There are several risk factors to be aware of, some which includes:

  • Individual Risk Factors

  • Mental health problems (depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders, etc.)

  • Substance use

  • Loss of any kind

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • History of trauma

  • Family Risk Factors

  • Family history of suicide/knowing someone who has died by suicide

  • Depressed and/or suicidal parents

  • Parents addicted to substances

  • Financial difficulties

  • Changes in family structure (death, divorce, remarriage, etc.)

  • Community Risk Factors

  • Access to lethal means

  • Stigma associated with seeking help

  • Lack of access to healthcare (mental health, substance abuse services, etc.)

  • Lack of social support

  • Incarceration or loss of freedom/trouble with the law

While assessing a person’s risk factors, their protective factors should also be considered to help with prevention.

Recognizing PROTECTIVE FACTORS

  • Personal Protective Factors

  • Good coping skills

  • Good health and access to healthcare

  • Hope for the future

  • Sobriety

  • Friends/Supportive significant other

  • Cultural, spiritual, or religious beliefs

  • Medical compliance

  • Attitudes, values, and norms prohibiting suicide

  • Sense of self-worth/personal control

  • Good impulse control

  • External and Environmental Protective Factors

  • Strong bonds with family/friends

  • Having goals

  • Restricted access to lethal means

  • Opportunities to participate in the community

  • Availability of counseling or trusted person

  • Responsibilities and duties to others

  • Pets, perceived connectedness

  • Reasonably safe, stable environment

If you are aware of someone who is suicidal, you serve as the gatekeeper and ensure that they receive immediate help. Listed below are some of the things that you can do as a GATEKEEPER while you get them connected with a family member or a qualified professional:

  • Listen

  • Observe

  • Pay attention to your gut sense, especially if the person insists that they are “fine.”

  • Ask directly about their suicidal feelings

  • Be calm, try not to overact

  • Offer a message of hope

  • Do not promise to keep it a secret

  • Don’t ask, “why?”

  • Do not leave them alone

  • Remove or distance the person from anything that could be used to ham themselves

Who can you talk to?

There are several resources available to get you direct help, some which are listed below:

  • Counselor

  • Employer

  • Neighbor or other community member

  • Social Services Agency

  • Law Enforcement

  • Mental Health Center

  • Medical Personnel (EMS, PCP, etc.)

  • School Counselor

  • Principal, Teacher, Coach

  • Clergy or Faith Based Organization

  • National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

It is imperative that we take a stand and eliminate the sigma’s for receiving mental health. Become an advocate and learn how to become more involved with suicide prevention. Let’s normalize mental wellness and seeking help.

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