September is National Suicide Prevention Month
Suicide is a serious, but completely preventable cause of death. “Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.”
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts–there is help, there is hope.
Warning Signs & Risk Factors
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness these are a few of the warning signs and risk factors of suicide:
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family and community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- A family history of suicide
- Substance use. Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
- A serious or chronic medical illness
- Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly 4x more likely to die by suicide.
- A history of trauma or abuse
- Prolonged stress
- A recent tragedy or loss
Veterans Have a Higher Risk of Suicide
Veterans account for almost a quarter of suicide deaths.
“The VA Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Caregivers includes important information about suicide prevention, as well as evidence-based mental health and substance use disorder treatments that can help Veterans recover and meet their goals. This toolkit also offers resources that anyone can access in the event of a crisis.” – caregiver.va.gov
How To Help
The National Alliance on Mental Illness gives this advice to approach a suicide-crisis:
- Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
- Remove means such as guns, knives, or stockpiled pills
- Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
- If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
- Express support and concern
- Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
- Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
- If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace
- Be patient
Like any other health emergency, it’s important to address a mental health crisis like suicide quickly and effectively. Unlike other health emergencies, mental health crises don’t have instructions or resources on how to help or what to expect (like the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR). That’s why NAMI created Navigating a Mental Health Crisis: A NAMI Resource Guide for Those Experiencing a Mental Health Emergency, so people experiencing mental health emergencies and their loved ones can have the answers and information they need when they need it.