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Suicide prevention

(Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc.) — If you are having suicidal thoughts or you know someone who is, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free and available 24/7 at 1 (800) 273-8255 (TALK). 

You can also access the Lifeline Crisis Chat system via the internet. Help and hope are available. The Community Guidance Center’s Wellness Office provides services locally…contact them at 236-8752. If you have a plan to commit suicide, go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.

Suicide is defined as death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior.

A suicide attempt is a non-fatal, self-directed, potentially injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior.

Suicidal ideation refers to thinking about, considering or planning suicide. A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die — they just want to stop hurting.

Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the signs and taking them seriously. Among the leading causes of death in the United States, suicide is a major public health concern.

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control reported suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States claiming more than 44,000 lives.

Suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 34, with numbers rising in various age brackets.

In 2015 there were more than twice as many suicides (44,193) in the U.S. as there were homicides (17,793).

If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject but talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

Risk factors for suicide

Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt or die by suicide. They can’t cause or predict a suicide attempt but they’re important to be aware of.

• Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders (e.g. depression, bipolar disorder) schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders

• Alcohol and other substance use disorders

• Hopelessness

• Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies

• History of trauma or abuse

• Major physical illnesses

• Previous suicide attempt(s)

• Family history of suicide

• Job or financial loss

• Loss of relationship(s)

• Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community

• Easy access to lethal means (e.g. pills, knives, razors, firearms, belts, rope)

• Local clusters of suicide

• Lack of social support and sense of isolation

• Stigma associated with asking for help

• Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment

• Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma

• Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and internet)

• Aggressive behavior or threatening to hurt someone

• Recent tragedy or loss

• Prolonged stress

Warning signs

• Talking, writing or thinking about suicide, wanting to die or killing one’s self

• Looking for a way to kill one’s self, like searching online or buying a gun

• Clinical depression — deep sadness, loss of interest in things one used to care about, trouble sleeping and eating — that gets worse

• Talking about feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless or having no reason to live

• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

• Talking about being a burden to others, saying things like “it would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”

• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs

• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly like having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights

• Sleeping too little or too much

• Withdrawing or isolating one’s self

• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

• Extreme mood swings — sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy

• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will

• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives. Evidence shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.

Common misconceptions

Myth: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.

Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

Myth: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.

Fact: Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.

Myth: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.

Fact: Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

Myth: People who die by suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.

Fact: Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.

Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.

Fact: You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Source: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Helping a suicidal person

• Get professional help. Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. Call a crisis line for advice and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help locate a treatment facility or take them to a doctor’s appointment.

• Follow-up on treatment. If the doctor prescribes medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as directed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. It often takes time and persistence to find the medication or therapy that’s right for a particular person.

• Be proactive. Those contemplating suicide often don’t believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more proactive at offering assistance. Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is too vague. Don’t wait for the person to call you or even to return your calls. Drop by, call again, invite the person out.

• Encourage positive lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also extremely important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress and promotes emotional well-being.

• Make a safety plan. Help the person develop a set of steps he or she promises to follow during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the person’s doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.

• Remove potential means of suicide, such as pills, knives, razors or firearms. If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give out only as the person needs them.

• Continue your support over the long haul. Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.

Information in this article was taken from the following sites:

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide/index.shtml
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide/
https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-recognizing-signs-of-suicide#1
https://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention.htm