by Rebecca Hartfield, MS, LCSW
As we enter into these cooler months, we are greeted with the idea of Fall. Stores begin placing Fall and Halloween décor in their aisles, shoppers are greeted with the smell of Pumpkin Spice, and what remains of professional football begins in sparsely attended stadiums. While this season may typically bring about feelings of warmth and coziness for some folks, it marks a time dedicated to raising awareness about an issue most people don’t feel comfortable talking about. Survivors of this epidemic are left dealing with the grief and shame associated with this particular public health crisis.
THE EPIDEMIC OF SUICIDE
While there has been an increase in education and awareness regarding the topic, suicide has continued to grow and has increased by 25% since 1999, according to the National Alliance of Mental Health. Therefore, professional mental health organizations like the National Institute for Mental Health, National Alliance of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and World Health Organization have set aside the month of September as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS
Not all cries for help come in the form of a statement. While you may hear statements such as “You’ll be better off without me around” or “I am going to kill myself,” it’s important to remember that there are other warning signs often exhibited by someone who is contemplating suicide.
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family or activities that the individual once enjoyed.
- Increase in mood swings, impulsiveness or reckless behavior.
- Giving away possessions, paying off debt and organizing personal papers and business.
- Saying goodbye to friends and family members.
- Changes in eating, sleeping and hygiene
- Increase in interpersonal violence
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
Be brave. Talk openly and honestly with your loved one about your feelings of self-harm or suicidal thoughts. If you are a loved one, don’t be afraid to ask questions. “Do you have a plan?” If they do offer help, through calling their doctor or an ambulance. If this is a crisis situation, call 911.
Let them know that there are qualified mental health professionals that are trained to help people experiencing suicidal ideation. Talk therapy can help your loved one recognize ineffective patterns of thinking and behavior, validate their feelings and learn coping skills. This, combined with the use of medications, is the most effective treatment. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of an often greater problem. There is hope!
- If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911
- If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
- If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.