- - Friday, October 9, 2015

Last year, there were an estimated 9.4 million American adults, age 18 and older, who seriously contemplated killing themselves. Nearly 40,000 committed suicide — and experts believe that due to under-reporting, the number is actually much higher. These statistics are staggering. There are more lives lost to suicide than breast cancer, AIDS, and homicides, combined!

And another shocking fact is that more than 376,000 people every year receive treatment in the emergency room for self-inflicted injuries. Although they survived, one too many of them go on to suffer from brain damage, broken bones, organ failure, and depression.

To address this, the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization have set forth the following goals: Raise awareness that suicide is preventable; improve education about suicide; and decrease stigmatization regarding suicide while we all work together to make a difference. After all, the tragedy of suicide can affect anyone.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: About Suicide

Is there a certain age group we should be worried about? Suicide has routinely been viewed as occurring in teenagers and the elderly. However, baby boomers have shown a significant increase since the Great Recession.

And, too, the rate of suicide in our veterans is alarming. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Survey found that 30 percent of all veterans have considered suicide. Other studies suggest that every day, 18-22 veterans take their lives. And, some experts believe that number is actually higher, but not counted because there is no uniform reporting system.

What are some risk factors that make it more likely someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide?
· Mental disorders (depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders)
· Substance abuse, including alcohol
· History of a traumatic event or abuse
· Previous suicide attempt or family history of suicide
· Loss of a job, money, or relationship
· Lack of social support and sense of isolation
· Exposure to others who have died by suicide, referred to as suicide contagion

What are warning signs of suicide? They differ from risk factors in that they suggest suicidal ideation or making plans to commit suicide. These are very serious signs that may include:
· Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
· Looking for a way to kill themselves (buying a gun, researching)
· Talking about feeling hopeless
· Being in unbearable pain or a burden to others, or having no reason to live
· Increasing the use of drugs or alcohol
· Behaving recklessly
· Withdrawing or isolating themselves

How do I help someone I suspect is suicidal? Although difficult, it may save a person’s life. Start a conversation with something as simple as “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.” And then listen. Let your loved one express the despair or anger they are feeling. Show concern in a sympathetic, calm, and accepting manner. And offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Demonstrate that they are important to you. Experts state it’s not what you say, but how you say it and your sincerity.

Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending their life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust — a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor — to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.

Know you are there to support, not solve the problem
Enlist professional help. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for making your loved one well. You can offer support, but you can’t get better for a suicidal person. They have to make a personal commitment to recovery. If there are warning signs, encourage your loved one to see a mental health professional and consider taking them to their appointment. In the event of a crisis, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
Stay committed. The initiation of any treatment is just the beginning. It may take a trial of different medications to find the one that works. “Talk therapy” can take months, or even years. And there may be ups and downs (anniversaries of a death, break up, traumatic event; holidays). If your loved one starts demonstrating warning signs for suicide again, don’t ignore it. You may not get a second warning.
Take an active roll. Your loved one may not have insight or the motivation to get themselves better. We often like to say “let me know if you need anything” and place the ball in their court. But when it comes to suicide, we need to be proactive.

I cannot leave this unsaid: If you are reading this and you struggle with suicidal thoughts, please remember, you are never alone – you are precious!! Reach out now to a family member, a friend or call and talk to someone at 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-SUICIDE for help today.

In addition, HelpGuide.org is a trusted non-profit guide to mental health and well-being, offering important insights I want to underscore: Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to committing suicide, but they just can’t see one. Please reach out, there is help, there is hope.

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