September is national Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2015 44,000 Americans died via suicide. What causes a person to want to take their own life? There are an infinite number of answers to this questions- there are as many varied reasons as there are people. The important thing to know though, is that the individual is suffering some sort of psychological or emotional pain (which may also be the result of a physical condition- such as chronic pain), that the sufferer finds unbearable. There may be thoughts that they just want the pain to stop, and/or (mistakenly) that those in their lives would be better off without them or unburdened. The takeaway though is to never underestimate the impact of psychological pain- we know that this type of pain can impact all areas of one's life as well as their health. Psychological and emotional pain also makes it more difficult to cope with physical pain and external stressors. Today's blog is intended to provide information, perspective, and resources for family and friends of those at risk as well as anyone in crisis. Please read on....
Who's at risk? In short- anyone. Many of us have had passing thoughts of suicide as a result of a difficult time or psychological stressor, however, those thoughts we not acted upon. Those who are at higher risk are those with a history of depression or other mental illness (diagnosed OR undiagnosed); those with previous suicide attempts or thoughts/plans; those who have had a close family member commit suicide (parent, sibling). More recently we have seen a rise in child suicide- this has been linked directly to bullying in the media, however, it is shown that the bullying itself is usually not the cause, but that bullying compounds other issues for which that child needs support whether it is a bad home situation or coming to terms with sexuality and gender identity, etc. you can find more information about the effects of bullying here. Men: Men consistently commit suicide at a rate 4 times that of women. Veterans: every day, 22 veterans end their lives by suicide. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a place to start. Click here for more information on risk factors for suicide.
Resources- Where can I go for more information? There are a multitude of resources available for family and friends as well as those in crisis. If you or someone you love is in crisis, your local Community Services Board or Behavioral Health Authority will have a crisis line that you may call 24 hours, 7 days a week. These would be considered local resources. If you feel your life or your loved one's life may be in danger, PLEASE, call 911. Whenever there is an acute (needs action right away) situation, 911 or your emergency services are the first call to make. If you are wanting to gather information on mental health and suicide awareness, the following web pages and organizations can be of assistance:
NAMI- National Alliance on Mental Illness. www.nami.org. This organization has local chapters all over the nation. They can assist you with finding your local resource. They can also be reached at 1-800-950-6264.
National Crisis Hotline- 1-800-273-8255
NIMH- National Institute of Mental Health. Here you'll find all kinds of information on mental health disorders, suicide in particular and current research on mental health impact and treatment.www.nimh.nih.gov.
Veteran specific resources- Veterans are one of our highest risk groups and have a special set of needs specific to their population. There is a hotline, especially for them at 1-800-273-8255. They may also send a text to 838255. There is also a "chat online" option, that must be accessed from this webpage: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/About/VeteranSuicide.aspx.
Remember: you can always internet search for desired information, just remember you must look to see if the information is valid. Traditionally reliable sites include .gov and .edu domain names. Any others, make sure you look at the "about" page to see where the site's information comes from (credentials of the writers- are they nurses, doctors, nutritionists, or other content experts? and whether or not it is current.)
So What Can I Do? It may feel like a lot to try to save someone's life. Please don't take ownership of someone else's issues, but DO do what you can and feel comfortable doing to let your family and friends know that YOU ARE THERE. Here are some other suggestions from the resources above and others for preventing suicide:
-Listen/just be there: WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. The no judgement part is very important. The individual is already struggling and someone who doesn't approach with compassion and openness is just not helpful.
-Remove lethal weapons: If your relationship is close enough to the person that you know they have access to weapons, remove them, or speak to someone who would feel more comfortable to do so.
- Don't argue: If the person is having hallucinations or delusions, do not argue as to whether or not what they are experiencing is real- it's real to them.
-Educate yourself: Learn all you can about mental illness and suicidal ideation (thoughts).
Click here for more specific information from NAMI on how to prevent suicide.
-#BeThe1To: this is a campaign directed at giving people specific information on how to provide support for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. #BeThe1To- check in/ask; be there; help keep the person connected to resources, and more. Here is a link to suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Scroll till you see the hashtag and click each heading moving left to right.
Last but certainly not least- Know the Warning Signs, and if someone tells you they are thinking of ending their life- believe them! Get help. I know several people who have lost friendships because they told someone a friend was suicidal. It's much better to lose a relationship than to lose that person. Below are some warning signs that someone may be thinking of or planning suicide, please visit this page for more information:
-Mood shifts from despair to calm
-Saying "goodbye" to family/friends
-Giving away possessions
-A preoccupation (writing, talking, drawing, etc.) with death
-Increased alcohol and drug usage
-Reckless and impulsive behavior
Someone you know is struggling. It's important that they know they are loved and THEY ARE NOT ALONE.
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