According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, each year 42,773 people die by suicide. For every completed suicide there are 25 people who attempt suicide. Twenty-two veterans complete suicide every day. This makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day.
There is no single cause for suicide. Many people feel only "crazy or insane people attempt suicide." Generally, people who consider suicide don’t want to die, they just want the pain to end. Suicide occurs most often when the stressors someone faces are greater than their coping abilities. Most often, suicide occurs in individuals who are suffering from a mental health condition. Depression is a common condition linked to suicide. Sadly, depression is often undiagnosed or untreated. In addition to depression, anxiety and substance use problems, when unaddressed increase the risk for suicide. Other risk factors for suicide include serious long term physical illness, access to lethal means such as a gun, previous suicide attempts and having a loved one complete suicide. There is hope. Most people who actively manage their mental health conditions lead successful and fulfilling lives.
Many feel that suicide comes without warning. However, the opposite is true. According to Trisha Nelson, LCSW, Clinical Triage Therapist at Gibson Area Hospital and Health Services, Behavioral Wellness Center explains that "there are many warning signs for suicide. These warning signs include: increased use of alcohol or drugs, developing a plan to complete suicide, acting recklessly, withdrawing from activities, isolating from family or friends, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say good bye, giving away prized possessions. Someone may talk about feeling hopeless or being a burden to family or friends." Nelson goes on to explain that someone contemplating suicide may experience a change in mood or behavior. "They may become agitated, aggressive, have mood swings, anxiety and/or be depressed." Nelson points out that it is very important "if someone who has been depressed for a long time and suddenly appears better, they may have already convinced themselves to commit suicide." If you are concerned, immediate action is very important. Suicide can be prevented. Most people who feel suicidal demonstrate warning signs. Recognizing some of these warning signs is the first step in helping yourself or someone you care about.
Nelson advises that if you fear that someone may be thinking about suicide, ask them! "It will feel awkward asking someone if they are thinking about suicide but you may save someone’s life when you do. Even a severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death. You can be the person to step in and get them the help they need. Knowing the right questions to ask is important." Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. Nelson provides encouragement stating that "You can't make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt."
So how do you start a conversation with your loved one? Nelson suggests statements such as this:
ï· I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
ï· Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
ï· I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
Questions you can ask:
ï· When did you begin feeling like this?
ï· Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
ï· Are you thinking about suicide or killing yourself?
ï· Have you thought about getting help?
What you can say that helps:
ï· You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
ï· I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
If you or a loved one are considering suicide, there is help. Nelson provides this instruction. "If you are in immediate danger of attempting suicide or think you cannot keep yourself safe, call 911." Nelson states "calling a friend or a trusted person is helpful. Talk about anything, even if it is just the weather. Reach out talk to anyone about anything." Other resources that are available are the National Suicide Prevention Helpline 1-800-273-TALK and the Hopeline 800-442-HOPE as well as the Behavioral Wellness Center and Geriatric Behavioral Services at Gibson Area Hospital 217-784-4540."
The Behavioral Wellness Center and Geriatric Behavioral Services are located at #4 Doctor’s Park across from Gibson Area Hospital. If you feel that you or a loved one may be struggling with depression, anxiety or have some suicidal thoughts, please contact the Behavioral Wellness Center and Geriatric Behavioral Services to schedule an appointment at 217-784-4540.