Suicide is a tough topic. It has been in the headlines recently with the passing of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. The topic has spurred much debate on mental health awareness and reform. I understand it is a sensitive issue and challenging for many to talk about.
However, I am not one to shy away from a challenge. Recent figures from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention list suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. 44,965 Americans pass away from suicide each year. The state of North Carolina accounts for 1,373 of those deaths, making our state 38th in the national ranking.
Being we are in a military community, the harrowing figure released by Veterans Affairs states veterans are at a 22 percent higher risk for dying by suicide than non-veteran adults. I also want to make note of this since “Raising Healthy Minds” primarily focuses on youth, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for individuals 15 to 34 here in NC. What can we do individually and as a community to help prevent this tragedy?
While there is no convenient solution, there are attainable ones. The main point to drive home is that suicide is the final symptom in depression and other mental health struggles. It should not be thought of as a selfish or attention-seeking act. People who die from suicide typically feel isolated, overwhelmed or like they are out of options.
A myriad of factors including past mental health history, access to treatment and amount of support all contribute to whether someone may succumb to it. To help you be able to identify if someone may be at risk, here are a few warning signs:
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Talking about feeling trapped or hopeless
- Searching for methods through print or online
People can be very good at hiding these symptoms and putting on a happy mask. These symptoms can often linger on for months or years before a person actually starts planning to take their life. However, taking time to really be observant and have deep conversations with those you see are struggling can bring their true thoughts and feelings to light. Listen and do not insert your opinions or advice.
Let them reveal what is going on and then start to guide them to resources that can help. Suicide is a very serious mental health concern and reporting it can lead to a person being hospitalized Only take immediate action such as calling 911 or other emergency services if you suspect the person has immediate plans. If you do, however, do not hesitate to act. You could save a life.
The good news is that treatment is available. Cognitive behavioral therapy, medications and rehabilitation from any substance abuse are all some ways suicidal thoughts and ideations can be addressed and resolved. While the road to recovery can be long, it is reachable. Together, we can address and overcome this horrible phenomenon.