By Davi Stein-Kiley, Courier & Press, Sept. 20, 2016 –
Suicide is a painful event in the life of a family, school and community. It creates enormous heaviness in our hearts.
When emotions run high, we find safe harbor in the company of friends, caregivers and others who can provide support or who know what it’s like to walk in these shoes. Unfortunately, many have been touched by this loss.
According to one study, as many as 64 percent of the participants knew someone who had attempted suicide and 40 percent knew someone who died by suicide. Almost 20 percent described themselves as a survivor of suicide. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24.
There are many steps in the walk through the grieving process: shock, anger, grief, sadness and pain. Death by suicide is complicated by feelings of guilt, shame and trauma. Lingering questions about the reason can leave difficult-to-heal wounds.
In the time following a loss, it is important to reach out and care for those who are close to the survivors. It’s also important to prevent future suicides.
The American Federation for Suicide Prevention lists a number of signs and symptoms for us to observe and watch. If friends, relatives, neighbors or acquaintances have these risk factors it is important to access care right away.
Listen to what they are saying. If a person talks about any of these, they are at risk:
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Experiencing unbearable pain
- Having no reason to live
- Killing themselves
Observe actions and behavior. If a person engages in specific behaviors like these they are at risk:
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
- Acting recklessly
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
Notice the mood. People considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
- Loss of interest
Sometimes people have other experiences in life that create greater risk for taking his/her own life. These include personal health and well-being as well as environmental experiences.
- Mental health conditions:
- Bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder
- Borderline or antisocial personality disorder
- Conduct disorder
- Psychotic disorders or psychotic symptoms in the context of any disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse disorders
- Serious or chronic health condition or pain
- Stressful life events – death, divorce or job loss
- Prolonged stress factors — may include harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
- Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
- Exposure to another person’s suicide or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
A key piece of prevention is to help people talk it out. We once believed sharing information about suicide could cause someone to be suicidal. This is a myth. In reality, talking provides an outlet for people in distress and reinforces the idea that it is good to talk with others rather than act on destructive feelings.
Young people may also believe it’s a betrayal to tell an adult about a friend who is contemplating suicide. The truth is that not telling is an even greater disloyalty. It’s important to help young people see the bigger picture and trust the adults around them to respond.
Our greatest asset in the fight against suicide is each other. As a community, we have the ability to join together and learn how to stop suicide. It is the most preventable form of death in our nation.
Southwestern Indiana has many resources we can access.
1. For immediate assistance call:
- Southwestern Healthcare Suicide Hotline – 812-422-1100
- Deaconess Crosspointe – 812-476-7200 or 800-947-6789
- Brentwood Meadows – 812-858-7200
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 800-473-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line- Text “GO” to 741741- Response by trained volunteers, not professional
2. To access Youth First Social Workers in your school see youthfirstinc.org.
3. Other resources include:
- SOS support groups: Care for Survivors of Suicide (SOS) offered at 6:30 p,m. the first and third Mondays of each month at Methodist Temple, 2109 Lincoln Ave.
- Support groups through Mental Health America — go to mhavanderburgh.org/support-groups.html
4. Additional training is available in our community for those interested:
- Youth Mental Health First Aid– A one day workshop designed for participants to learn how to recognize the differences between normal youth development and emerging mental health concerns. Participants learn an action plan to support youth in both crisis and non-crisis situations.
- Question Persuade Refer (QPR) offered for Teens and Adults in our community – a one-hour training designed to help people recognize signs and symptoms of suicide and support a friend or family member who may be having suicidal thinking.
- ASIST- Applied Suicide Skills Training – A two-day workshop provided to help participants learn how to talk with a person who might be suicidal.
The Southwestern Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition is a group of dedicated agencies and individuals whose goal is to look for ways to reduce suicide in our region. The HOPE Team (Helping Other People Every day) is a collective outreach of survivors of suicide and professionals who provide early crisis response to families and friends who have experienced the loss of suicide. For more information about the Southwestern Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition and the HOPE team, contact Janie Chappell at 812-471-4521.