Coping with Suicide
Healthy Living - Dr. David Prescott
August 10, 2011
Progress Has Been Made on Suicide Awareness; Thanks to efforts of many groups such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and, more locally, the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program, public awareness about suicide and suicide risk factors has improved. However, suicide continues to be a leading cause of death in the United States, and helping people cope with suicide continues to be a significant public health issue.
Who is Most at Risk for Suicide? Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in America for people between the ages of 18 and 65, and the 11th leading cause of death overall. Older adults (75 plus) and adolescents/young adults (15-24) continue to have high rates relative to other causes of death. However, the latest statistics available (through 2007) show a recent increase in overall suicide rates.
Most people, about 90%, who commit suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Most common are the mood disorders like major depression or bipolar disorder. People who have substance abuse disorders (alcohol or drug abuse and dependence) are also at high risk.
What are Warning Signs for Suicide? One of the more common myths about suicide is that people who try to commit suicide do not tell anyone of their thoughts and plans. To the contrary, most people who attempt suicide have talked about it. Any talk about a suicide plan should be taken seriously and the person with the plan should be seen by a mental health professional or call a mental health crisis line.
Common warning signs of signs of suicide include:
- Observable signs of depression such as unrelenting low mood, hopelessness, and social isolation.
- Increased alcohol or illicit drug use.
- Recent impulsiveness or unnecessary risk taking
- Expressing a strong wish to die
- Making a suicide plan or giving away important possessions
What to Do if You Know Someone Who is Considering Suicide
It is important to realize that no one thing that a person does, or fails to do, makes the final determination about a suicide attempt. Try your best to help, but remember that there are many factors involved in a suicide attempt. Good first steps include:
Listen Attentively: Just listening to someone can provide important support and begin to help them feel better. Tell them you are concerned, and find out if they see a mental health professional.
Encourage Professional Help: If the person is not seeing a mental health professional, encourage them to do so. Types of mental health professionals include psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and licensed professional counselors. You may be able to help them follow through on making a call or keeping an appointment.
Mental Health Crisis Lines: Maine like most states has crisis phone lines to help people who are considering suicide. You can call 2-1-1 or 1-888-568-1112.
Coping with a Completed Suicide; If someone you know has completed suicide, it is important to talk about it. There are support groups available where you will meet other people struggling with the same issue. It is common to immediately feel shock or numb. This is often followed by feeling sad and depressed, guilty, and angry.
For More Information:
American Society for Suicide Prevention: www.asfp.org
Acadia Hospital: www.acadiahospital.org