September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is a global public health crisis that transcends borders, affecting people of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life. In the United States, suicide is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention and concerted efforts. September is a time to put forth actions and to promote suicide awareness as we are critically reminded of our responsibility to address this crisis. Understanding the factors contributing to suicide is essential in developing effective prevention strategies. Some of the key factors leading to suicide include:
- Mental health disorders – Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder often play a significant role in suicide. Stigma and lack of access to mental health care can exacerbate this issue.
- Social Isolation - Loneliness and social isolation can be powerful triggers for suicidal thoughts. The feeling of being disconnected from others can make individuals feel hopeless and desperate.
- Substance Abuse - Drugs and alcohol can increase the risk of suicide. Substance abuse can impair judgment and exacerbate existing mental health issues.
- Access to Lethal Means - Easy access to lethal means, such as firearms, can contribute to impulsive suicides. Limiting access to these means can save lives.
- Trauma and Adverse Life Events - Traumatic experiences and adverse life events, such as the loss of a loved one, relationship problems, or financial difficulties, can push individuals toward suicidal ideation.
Understanding Signs of Suicide
There are various contributing factors and reasons why people contemplate, attempt, or die by suicide. Some of the signs that an individual is considering suicide include:
Hearing statements about:
- Wanting to die
- Great guilt or shame
- Being a burden to others
Expressing the following feelings:
- Empty, hopeless, trapped, or having no reason to live
- Extremely sad, more anxious, agitated or full of rage
- Unbearable emotional or physical pain
Changes in behavior, such as:
- Planning or researching ways to die
- Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving away important items, or making a will
- Taking dangerous risks, such as driving extremely fast
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Eating or sleeping more or less
- Using drugs or alcohol more often
How to Assist Someone With Suicidal Thoughts
If you are looking to help someone in emotional pain or having suicidal thoughts, here are five steps provided by The National Institute of Mental Health:
“Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicide or suicidal thoughts.
2 Keep Them Safe
Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
3 Be There
Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and discussing suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
4 Help Them Connect
Save the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number (call or text 988) and the Crisis Text Line number (741741) in your phone so they are there if you need them. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
5 Stay Connected
Staying in touch after a crisis or after the individual is discharged from care can make a difference.
Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross said, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
This quote is a valuable reminder that when faced with adversity or difficulty, the most important thing to focus on is to keep striving to surpass the obstacle and remember eventually, things will get better. By working together, we can make progress in preventing suicides and providing hope and support to those who need it most.
If you or someone you know needs support, EAP can help. Contact us at 901-683-5658 or www.methodisteapcanhelp.org
Regina Abston, LCSW
Regina Abston is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi. She is a native Memphian. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Family Studies from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Memphis. Regina has worked with children, adults and families as a Medical Social Worker in a hospital setting. She also has many years of experience as a Crisis Specialist who works with clients experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Regina is passionate about her work and strives to motivate her clients to overcome difficult situations. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music, traveling and comedy.