Real Talk: Mental Health & Suicide
June 28, 2016 at 1:10 pm
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. with over 42,000 Americans taking their own lives each year.
There are many factors that can lead someone to suicide – substance abuse, recent tragedy or loss, history of abuse, and chronic medical illness are just a few. One of the strongest correlations exists between suicide and mental illness. Research shows about 90% of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness.
NAMI states that mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, or mood. These conditions can affect your ability to relate to others and function on a day to day basis. Mental illness affects each person differently, even if they have the same diagnosis.
With Mental Health Month trailing just behind us, we’re here to continue to spread awareness about mental health and suicide as well as provide information and support for those who need it.
Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape intolerable pain and suffering. A person who has reached this point can’t see any way of finding relief from this pain except through death. Life can be hard; but when has someone reached their breaking point? How do you know if they are “giving up”? The earlier these warning signs are recognized, the better. Learn the signs and help those in need. Is someone you know:
- Threatening to kill themselves?
- Talking/writing about death?
- Suddenly isolating themselves from friends and family?
- Displaying reckless or unpredictable behavior?
- Feeling trapped, hopeless, or a burden on others?
- Increasing their use of alcohol and drugs?
- Experiencing extreme mood swings?
- Sleeping more or less than usual?
- Losing interest in things they once cared about?
- Giving away meaningful possessions?
- Calling friends and family to say goodbye?
1. Reach out and ask – then listen. Be very straight forward and ask them, “are you thinking about suicide?” Most people contemplating suicide want a reason to live. Show support so they know they are not alone. Then skip the lecture and let them vent. It’s healthy for someone experiencing emotional pain to tell their story to a kind and open ear.
2. If you think they may take action, don’t leave them alone. Remove any dangerous objects from their reach and call for help. In an emergency situation, take them to the emergency room.
3. Don’t go it alone. Ask family, friends, and professionals for help. You don’t want to be the only one supporting them through this time. Collect all the information you can and make a plan.
4. Ask them for a promise. Have them promise they will reach out and tell someone if they have suicidal thoughts again. They will be more likely to do so after making a verbal agreement.
Seeking support from close friends and family members is usually the first step when faced with someone considering suicide. If this doesn’t work and you think the person may need outside help, here are some other places/people you can reach out to:
– General practitioner
– School counselor
– Psychologist or social worker
– Community health center
– Crisis support services (National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK)
– Priest, minister, or other religious leader
Myth: People who talk about suicide are seeking attention and won’t do it.
Fact: Most people who commit or attempt suicide show warning signs and talking about it is their plea for help. Don’t ignore outright clues and write them off as empty threats. Someone contemplating suicide may see death as a pain free and happy place. Talking openly about suicide and its repercussions can help change this.
Myth: If someone is determined to commit suicide, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Fact: People considering suicide are doing just that – considering it. They waver back and forth between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people don’t want death, they just want the pain to stop. The feeling of wanting to “end it all” isn’t permanent.
Myth: The only effective intervention for suicide comes from medical professionals.
Fact: An effective intervention requires a strong network of support from friends, family, loved ones, and peers, in addition to medical professionals. Emotional support and encouragement can help a suicidal person find happiness again.