National Suicide Prevention Month.

Dr Dana Hardy is leading our Mental Health outreach efforts for the Safe Tennessee Project. September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Dr Hardy has provided us with an informative article discussing statistics and the need for both continued development and implementation of educational and suicidal prevention programs.

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“People who talk about suicide are less likely to attempt it as they are only seeking attention.” While this is grossly untrue, such myths unfortunately continue to exist in our society. Accordingly, both mental health professionals and community action agencies have a responsibility to debunk these myths with the continued development and implementation of educational and suicidal prevention programs.

In order to establish effective programs, a myriad of factors must be addressed. For instance, a concerted effort must be made to reduce prejudice about mental disorders and suicide thereby making it more likely for suicidal individuals to disclose symptoms and seek treatment. One way to accomplish the reduction of stigma and prejudice is to advocate for more responsible and accurate representation by the media of mental illness particularly suicide. More public awareness campaigns are needed that highlight the warning signs of suicide and identify where and how to get help.

Greater focus is also needed in reducing access to lethal means – restricting access clearly makes it less likely for persons to engage in suicidal behaviors. As will be detailed below, with individuals who make a suicide attempt, those who use firearms are more likely to die than those who use other means. At present, many of, if not the majority, the firearm safety educational materials focus primarily on the prevention of accidents rather than additionally including suicide. Advocating for the inclusion of a caveat in these materials that emphasizes the importance of keeping guns away from someone who is suicidal would be of great benefit. Further, developing outreach programs to gun owners, firearm dealers, and others in order to promote gun safety and increase their involvement in suicide prevention is a vital strategy for reducing suicide risk.

Now let’s look at some of the statistics surrounding suicide and address some of the key questions.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death – twice as many people die from suicide than they do from homicide.
More than 8 million adults reported having serious thoughts of suicide during the course of a year; 2.5 million admitted to making a suicide plan in the past and 1.1 million admitted to a suicide attempt
In the last decade in the United States, on the average, a person died as a result of suicide every 15 minutes
More than 15% of high school students report having seriously considered suicide and 7.8% admit to having attempted suicide one or more times in 2011
Each year, more than 13 million people in the United States report that they have known someone who died by suicide in the span of that year.

Who is at greatest risk for suicide?
Women are more likely than men to have thoughts about suicide and to attempt suicide, but men are more likely than women to die by suicide.
Although white men 75 years of age and older have the highest rates of suicide most deaths from suicide occur among white men in midlife, who make up a larger part of the population

Why is it that more men complete the suicidal act than women?
Men are more likely to use firearms while women are more likely to use poisoning or overdose on medication

What are some of the warning signs of suicide?*

Talking about wanting to die;
Looking for the means to kill oneself;
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;
Talking about feeling trapped “with no way out” or being in unbearable pain;
Talking about being a burden to others;
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;
Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;
Sleeping too little or too much;
Withdrawing or feeling isolated;
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and
Displaying extreme mood swings.
Giving away valuable possessions

*While not every one who exhibits these signs is suicidal, the more signs they show, the greater the risk for suicide.

What should I do if a loved one is displaying some of these signs?

Do not leave the person alone;
Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800–273–TALK/8255; and
Take the person to an emergency room or seek help immediately from a medical or mental health professional

The factors that lead to suicide are multiple and complex. While its prevention is a daunting task, it is not an impossible one if we as individuals, groups, communities and as a country work together.

*Much of the data and information cited here was obtained from the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

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