Suicide Prevention Month: Intervention and Awareness
As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its sixth month, millions of Americans find themselves dealing with new issues. For some, feelings of anxiety and depression have worsened to include suicidal thoughts. This September, Pine Grove observes National Suicide Prevention Month. For the next few weeks, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, mental health advocates, and community members unite to raise awareness of this nationwide epidemic. Read on to learn more about suicide and its prevention.
Suicide in America: The Facts
Like addiction, suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, regardless of their age, background, or gender. These urges may emerge as a result of untreated mental health conditions or challenging circumstances. While experiencing these thoughts isn’t unusual, it should never be considered normal. If you find yourself contemplating suicide, it’s important to receive professional help as soon as possible.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999. In 2016, nearly 45,000 lives were lost to this preventable end, leaving countless family members, friends, and loved ones to pick up the pieces. Today, approximately 123 Americans die by suicide each day – one person every 12 minutes.
These numbers mean that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America.
It’s important to be aware of the risk factors surrounding suicide. Certain life events, such as the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, losing one’s job, financial difficulties, and the isolation of COVID-19 can predispose individuals to consider self-harm and death more seriously. Additionally, people with substance use or mental health disorders are at higher risk of suicide. Finally, people who have a history of trauma, abuse, chronic illness, and exposure to others who have died by suicide should be monitored closely for suicidal tendencies.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Suicidal ideation – comments or thoughts about killing oneself – often starts small. People may make offhanded remarks about wishing they were not here or that “nothing matters.” Over time, warning signs become more explicit and one’s risk increases. If your loved one exhibits any of the following behaviors, we encourage you to intervene and seek professional help.
- Increased risk-taking and recklessness
- Substance abuse (drinking or drugs)
- Erratic or aggressive behavior
- Feeling trapped or overwhelmed
- Seeing themselves as a burden on others
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Anxiety or agitation
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Dramatic mood swings
- Isolation from friends and family
Suicidal behaviors are considered a psychiatric emergency. Individuals who seem to be planning their death require immediate clinical intervention. Behaviors include:
- Purchasing weapons
- Collecting pills
- Threatening to hurt themselves
- Talking about wanting to die
- Giving away one’s possessions
- Searching for access to lethal means (online or physically)
- Tying up loose ends (paying off debts, organizing one’s estate)
- Talking, writing, or posting about death
- Saying goodbye to loved ones
How to Prevent Suicide
There is hope. One of the main goals of National Suicide Prevention Month is to highlight the preventative measures we can take to save lives across the country. These steps – called “protective factors” – promote resilience and build connections during trying times.
First, we should seek to dispel the stigma surrounding mental illness. Far too many people avoid seeking help because they are concerned about what their friends, family, and community will think. We can begin to overcome stigma by discussing suicide and mental illness, posting our personal stories on social media, and having tough conversations with our loved ones. The more this topic is discussed, the more comfortable people will feel about seeking help.
Next, we should increase access to evidence-based mental health care. At Pine Grove, we provide mental health services and substance abuse treatment for those in need. A variety of clinical interventions may be effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression which catalyze suicidality. Ongoing clinical and mental health care can make a massive difference in a person’s health and wellbeing.
Finally – connect with your loved ones. COVID-19 has created unprecedented levels of isolation for all of us, and it can be difficult to remember to check in with everyone. Even your strong friends may be struggling right now. Set aside time to speak with your family and friends on a regular basis. It will boost their feelings of connection and improve your mood, too.
We’re Here for You
At Pine Grove, we’ve helped individuals to find recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders. Our clinical team is standing by to help transform your life. Whether you’re searching for a residential or outpatient program, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our mental health services.