MHP New Directions Cautions about Suicide Prevention Week
Many people have fleeting thoughts about what life would be like without them. However, the majority of these people do not act on their thoughts. If these types of thoughts are persistent, immediate medical attention is needed.
National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 4 through 10, was created to raise awareness of suicide. According to Kimberly Pickett, LISW, Clinical Supervisor of New Directions at Mahaska Health Partnership, most people feel uncomfortable talking about suicide and often, victims are blamed. Their friends, families and communities are left devastated.
“Suicide affects everyone,” Pickett explained. “According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) more than 36,000 people in the U.S. die by suicide each year. In conjunction, in the past year 1.1 million Americans attempted suicide, 2.2 Americans made a suicide plan, and 8.4 million Americans had serious thoughts of suicide. Males attempt suicide at a 4 to 1 ratio to females, with the largest number of suicides being working aged males (20-64) accounting for 60% of suicides.”
According to MHP New Directions Substance Abuse Counselor Allison Brown, ACADC, 30 percent of deaths by suicide involved alcohol intoxication with breath alcohol content at or above the legal limit. “If someone is depressed and using alcohol or drugs, take it seriously,” Brown stressed. “You could save someone’s life without knowing it. Often people are more successful at committing suicide under the influence because it takes away their inhibitions. Whenever anyone mentions suicidal thoughts, this cry for assistance needs to be taken seriously.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that a combination of individual, relational, community and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide—they may or may not be direct causes. They include:
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of child maltreatment
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- History of mental disorders, particularly depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
- Barriers to accessing behavioral health treatment
- Loss (relational, social, work or financial)
- Physical illness
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts
Pickett said that suicide is preventable and trained therapists at New Directions are available to assist with this process. Therapy can help the family learn ways of expressing themselves so the situation that is bothersome can be changed in a positive way.
“Therapists can assist those in need to learn positive problem solving skills, ways to improve communication and learn stress reducing strategies,” Pickett said. “If you notice these symptoms in someone, seek help immediately. Do not leave this person alone. If the person is in imminent danger to himself or others, call 911. If you are able to transport the person safely to the emergency room, do so.”
There are also 24 hour hotlines people can call for telephone counseling and support: Iowa Concern Hotline (800) 447-1985 or locally, Crisis Intervention Services (641) 673-5499.