World Suicide Prevention Day 2013

Today, September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.  For many people, this may just seem like another day that gets used to recognize a cause.  To others, this is a day to acknowledge some of the scary statistics around suicide including:

  • There is one suicide every 40 seconds worldwide.
  • For every “successful” suicide, there are 20 failed attempts.
  • Therefore, there is one attempted suicide every 2-3 seconds.

These are 2011 statistics which were projected to increase 50% by 2020.  

I think a lot of people mistakenly think of suicide as a teenage issue, but it’s not.  Many of you have probably seen articles in the US about suicides in the military which happen almost daily.  The suicide rate among middle-aged Americans has risen dramatically also.  A few years ago with several high profile suicides in the LGBT community there was a big focus on this with the It Gets Better Project.  

If you haven’t been touched by suicide in your life, you’re lucky.  I unfortunately can think of several people I know:

  • My friend from high school who killed himself.
  • My friend from grade school who’s brother killed himself.
  • A kid in my high school, that killed himself.
  • A friend’s ex-husband who just killed himself a few months ago.
  • A former co-worker who killed himself.

People who have attempted suicide usually aren’t very willing to talk about it based on the risk of being stigmatized, but this TED video is by one survivor speaking out.  

 

The key is for people to recognize the signs (when possible) and engage people.  The Cleveland Clinic and WebMD give some good information on the topic.  Here’s a list from the Cleveland Clinic site:

  • Excessive sadness or moodiness — Long-lasting sadness and mood swings can be symptoms of depression, a major risk factor for suicide.

  • Sudden calmness — Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.

  • Withdrawal — Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities also are possible symptoms of depression. This includes the loss of interest or pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed.

  • Changes in personality and/or appearance — A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behavior, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.

  • Dangerous or self-harmful behavior — Potentially dangerous behavior, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol might indicate that the person no longer values his or her life.

  • Recent trauma or life crisis — A major life crisis might trigger a suicide attempt. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job, or serious financial problems.

  • Making preparations — Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will, and cleaning up his or her room or home. Some people will write a note before committing suicide.

  • Threatening suicide — Not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it. However, every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.

The Mayo Clinic gives this list of things to do:

  • Encourage the person to seek treatment. Someone who is suicidal or has severe depression may not have the energy or motivation to find help. If your friend or loved one doesn’t want to consult a doctor or mental health provider, suggest finding help from a support group, crisis center, faith community, teacher or other trusted person. You can help by offering support and advice — but remember that it’s not your job to become a substitute for a mental health provider.

  • Offer to help the person take steps to get assistance and support. For example, you can research treatment options, make phone calls and review insurance benefit information, or even offer to go with the person to an appointment.

  • Encourage the person to communicate with you. Someone who’s suicidal may be tempted to bottle up feelings because he or she feels ashamed, guilty or embarrassed. Be supportive and understanding, and express your opinions without placing blame. Listen attentively and avoid interrupting.

  • Be respectful and acknowledge the person’s feelings. Don’t try to talk the person out of his or her feelings or express shock. Remember, even though someone who’s suicidal isn’t thinking logically, the emotions are real. Not respecting how the person feels can shut down communication.

  • Don’t be patronizing or judgmental. For example, don’t tell someone, “things could be worse” or “you have everything to live for.” Instead, ask questions such as, “What’s causing you to feel so bad?” “What would make you feel better?” or “How can I help?”

  • Never promise to keep someone’s suicidal feelings a secret. Be understanding, but explain that you may not be able to keep such a promise if you think the person’s life is in danger. At that point, you have to get help.

  • Offer reassurance that things will get better. When someone is suicidal, it seems as if nothing will make things better. Reassure the person that these feelings are temporary, and that with appropriate treatment, he or she will feel better about life again.

  • Encourage the person to avoid alcohol and drug use. Using drugs or alcohol may seem to ease the painful feelings, but ultimately it makes things worse — it can lead to reckless behavior or feeling more depressed. If the person can’t quit on his or her own, offer to help find treatment.

  • Remove potentially dangerous items from the person’s home, if possible. If you can, make sure the person doesn’t have items around that could be used to commit suicide — such as knives, razors, guns or drugs. If the person takes a medication that could be used for overdose, encourage him or her to have someone safeguard it and give it as prescribed.

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