By: Micah P. Hatchett, LPC-S, PhD
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates are rising across the United States. Death by suicide is classified as a “…leading cause of death.” Also alarming to know is that at least 54% of the people identified as having died by suicide, had no known mental health conditions. Meaning, suicide risk is not just a concern for people who are depressed or seeking therapy, but for all. My hope here is to educate, increase awareness, and therefore, contribute to removing the stigma that surrounds this topic.
Things to Know, Myths to Dispel
First, language is important. A person does not “commit” suicide as one would a crime. It may seem difficult, even insignificant, to try to be conscientious of this, but language is reflective of feeling, and the connotation that someone commits suicide is negative. To a surviving relative of that person, it can make a difference.
Talking about suicide does not increase the likelihood of someone dying that way. In fact, talking about it openly and honestly allows for those who may be having those thoughts to be encouraged to talk. It is also noteworthy to understand that someone who is having suicidal thoughts likely does not really want to die. They want their pain to stop. So, encouraging an atmosphere of acceptance may allow one to feel safe enough to share their feelings.
Often, people dismiss those who have attempted suicide unsuccessfully as someone who continues to do so for attention or appearances. No one who is talking about it or has consistently made attempts to take their life do so flippantly. People who are considering suicide may actually talk about it, dispelling the myth that someone who may consider this does so in isolation.
Some things to do
Familiarizing oneself with some warning signs is important. People may have an uptick in feelings of anxiety, depression, anger or have severe mood swings. They may seek out lethal means, they may tell people goodbye or complete unfinished business. Again, they may talk about it, talk about themselves as a burden or that people would be better off if they were gone. They may seem hopeless and helpless or make posts on social media about wanting to die by suicide. Someone might be unusually happy as well.
Most importantly, listen to your instincts. If someone you know is not acting like themselves, and something tells you that something is wrong, talk to them. Ask them if they are having thoughts of hurting themselves. Getting help is the next step. This course can vary depending on what is happening with that individual and the person receiving the information. If unsure of what to do, ask a healthcare professional or if someone is in imminent danger, contact 911 or go to an emergency room.
Getting help early is also key. Encourage people you know who need help to get it. Medication alone cannot fix this phenomenon. Psychotherapy is also integral in a treatment plan that helps a person learn effective and healthy coping mechanisms, while drawing on their strengths to get better and stay better in the long run.
Err on the side of caution. No amount of money or debt, no level of embarrassment – nothing – is worth the risk of losing someone this way. Ask anyone who has what they would choose.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline #BeThe1to campaign website: http://www.bethe1to.com
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/