This is a tough subject to write about but a must. The CDC Principal Director says suicide is now “a leading cause of death for Americans” and is on the rise in every state. This raises a question. A question that has no answers.
Many of us know of someone who has taken their own life. Some have heard it happen too many times. One time is too much. All of these people have suffered day in and day out with negative voices in their heads, the constant war within themselves, their own thoughts telling them that nothing will change. This hurts.
We all wonder what, why, how this is happening. Is it too much social media, strict social status, the stigma of perfection, fear of being judged, self shame?
All walks of life have engaged in suicide but the group leading this tragedy is middle-aged individuals ages 45-54 with men 3.5 times likely than women. I am in this age group so we have to look at what problems can happen at this age: social status, divorce or relationship issues, illness, finances, addiction, and job loss. Of course there can always be more.
Surprisingly, the second highest group leading in suicide is over the age of 85. This makes me think it could be family loss, physical debilitation, physical pain, finances, housing problems, and mental ailments.
When we first think of someone who has tragically taken their life, we often assume they have a mental illness. This is not the case.
Only half of the victims of suicide have reported having a mental health condition. This means the person either didn’t have a mental illness or possibly never addressed their thoughts with a professional to receive help.
There are so many factors of why this horrific and preventable act occurs. Too many to figure out. What we do know is that WE CAN ALL HELP!
Mental health needs to be a key factor in life. It seems as though it gets pushed under the table and we all assume everyone is OK. We address our weight, diet, heart, liver, kidneys, arthritis, diabetes, you name it. We aren’t addressing a very important part of our body, our minds.
If you think about it, in elementary school our eyes and ears get tested. When we apply for a driver’s license they test our vision, when we go to the doctor our weight and blood pressure are immediately tested. When we fill out new patient forms they ask every question regarding various diseases but mental health is not one of them. When do we ever test our thoughts?
The only time this gets addressed is if we voluntarily make an appointment, have a stroke, migraine, etc. There is never a time that our mental health gets a checkup. This needs to change!
People who suffer from depression often don’t want to admit it or possibly don’t believe they are depressed. They feel it will pass and don’t want to burden others with their personal issues.
If this depression strengthens, it can be very harmful. Depression is like quick sand, you struggle to stay above ground and before you know it, you’re sinking violently.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
We need to KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS:
- Appearing sad or depressed majority of the time
- Behaving recklessly
- Writing or talking about suicide or death
- Feeling shame or guilt excessively
- Feeling helpless
- Getting things together like making a Will
- Feeling hopeless
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Feeling rage or strong anger
- Poor performance at work or in school
- Behaving Impulsively
- Experiencing mood changes, often times dramatic
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- A change in sleeping
- Gaining or losing weight
- Personality change
- Feeling trapped — like impossible to get out of the situation
- Giving away important possessions
- Loss of interest in activities
- Looking for firearms or medications
- A sudden calmness
Depression that is left untreated is the leading cause of suicide. Depression must be addressed and treated for any prevention to happen. People that laugh and smile may be screaming and crying inside. 75% of suicides have shown warning signs but sadly some exhibited no signs at all.
If by any chance you live with someone or know someone you question may be suicidal, remove any weapons or objects that can harm them and medications. Be proactive and consider items in the house that can be used. This sounds alarming but you never know.
Create a warm open environment and talk to the person. Let them speak, you be the listener. Create a caring conversation with honesty, nonjudgmental.
Be yourself and offer hope. Mention that suicidal thoughts are temporary and help is available, they are not alone in this.
If you suspect they are suicidal, it is OK to ask them directly. You won’t be planting a seed, especially if they have been consuming the thought. Talking openly about this is one of the best things we can do to help.
It is best to try not to minimize their problem or make light of it. It is real to them.
START A CONVERSATION WITH THE PERSON:
“I’ve noticed you’ve been different lately and wanted to check on how you are doing”
“Have you thought about talking to someone professionally?”
“How long have you been feeling this way?”
“I know you can’t see this now but your feelings will change.”
“I care about you and want to help any way I can. You’re not alone.”
“When you feel like giving up, give it one more day, one more minute, one more second.”
NOT PROPER RESPONSES:
- Do not act surprised or shocked
- Do not try to correct the issue or give advice
- Do not get upset and argue
- Do not say you will not tell anyone
People contemplating suicide do not want to die, they just can’t handle the hurt or pain and want it to stop. Their pain is unbearable and they do not see any way out other than to remove themselves from this life. The pain is so intense. Many do not cry out or ask for help, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want help.
If you suspect a person is suicidal, do everything you can to help. Yes it is not something most of us want to bring up. We are scared to upset them, we could be wrong, is it appropriate? YES! If the person is suicidal, time is of the essence! They need immediate help.
GET MORE INFORMATION AND EVALUATE IF THEY:
- Have a PLAN
- Have the necessary MEANS or equipment to carry out the plan (firearms, medications, etc)
- Have a TIME FRAME
- INTEND to kill themselves
If you perceive this person has all of the above, call 911 immediately or drive them to the closest Emergency Room. Remember to remove anything and everything the person could harm themselves with; guns, firearms, medications, alcoholic beverages, belts, rope, knives, etc. DO NOT LEAVE THE PERSON ALONE!
SUICIDE RISK LEVELS:
LOW – the person has lightly perceived the thought but has no plan and says they will not attempt suicide.
MODERATE – the person has perceived the thought and has a minimal plan but says they will not attempt suicide.
HIGH – the person has perceived the thought and has a lethal plan but says they will not attempt suicide.
SEVERE – the person has perceived the thought and has a lethal plan but says they will attempt suicide.
As stated before, if you suspect a friend or family member is suicidal, offer help. Let them know they are not alone, you care about them, and will support them.
After my son passed, at his service, so many strangers came up to me and shared their personal story of how my son changed their life. How he saved them in a desperate moment. Evidently he saved many friends who were suicidal.. he sat with them for days and got them out of the woods.. truly beautiful! I NEVER knew this about him. He is a perfect example of what we should do.
My son’s death was not from suicide, his stand-up actions and the continuous shocking preventable deaths are what have inspired me to write this article. I hope we all gain encouragement and confidence and carry these necessary tools to help someone win the personal war they’re battling.
Encourage the person to get professional help and offer your time to get them there. Follow up on their medications and ask them if they are taking them. Be sure to ask if they are having any side effects. Some antidepressants can enhance depression in the beginning.
Guide the person with a healthy lifestyle change: Better eating habits, sleeping, exercise, and encourage them to get out in nature every day, Continue to support them even after the crisis is over. This is important to keep them in recovery.
Suicide prevention is something we need to all take a part of immediately. Our society is trying to address what is causing all of this. I’m not sure if we will ever pinpoint the answers. Right now, we can do our best to be there for someone in a crisis.
SUICIDE PREVENTION LINE:
1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433
1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255
IMPORTANT WEBSITE TO HELP:
Suicide Prevention Awareness, and Help: http://www.suicide.org/suicide-warning-signs
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Reporting on Suicide:
As always, I encourage all comments. Sharing is Caring!