September is National Suicide Awareness Month. The need to talk about suicide awareness is more poignant now than ever. Increasing isolation and anxiety can exacerbate underlying mental health conditions and suicidal thoughts. There is more help now for those in need with the advent of our first nationwide system for mental health, suicide crisis and substance abuse crisis by going to 988lifeline.org or texting at 998 one can get help immediately.
Forty-six percent (46%) of the people who die by suicide are diagnosed with a mental health condition but studies show that ninety (90%) have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition.
It’s important for those affected by suicidal thoughts or their support networks to know that
mental health conditions are treatable with proper therapy with a professional.
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death overall in the United States and the
second leading cause of death among people age 10 to 14 and the third cause of
death among people 15 to 24. The annual prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide by US demographic group are the following: · 4.9% of all adults
· 11.3% of all young adults aged 18 to 25
· 18.8% of high school students
· 45% of LGBTQ youth.
The highest rates of suicide or among American Indian andAlaskan natives followed by non-Hispanic whites. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4 x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth, transgender adults are nearly 9 x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population and suicide is the leading cause of death of all people in local jails.
Suicidal thoughts and mental health issues affect all areas and demographics. It’s important that we destigmatize the ability to talk about suicide so that we can prevent suicide. It’s important that we pay attention to the cues and warning signs of those affected and take them seriously. Warning signs can include things like increased alcohol or drug use, withdrawing from friends and family and the community, dramatic mood-swings, impulsive or reckless behavior, aggressive behavior and making comments such as I bet, he better off if I were gone. Pay attention, we must take them seriously.
Suicidal behaviors may include actions like collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon, giving away possessions, tying up loose ends or saying goodbye to friends. There are other risk factors that make suicide more likely and those include a family history of suicide, substance use like drugs that create mental highs and lows and worsen suicidal thoughts, intoxication. The CDC indicates that one of five people who die by suicide had alcohol in their system at the time of death. A serious or chronic medical illness, a history of trauma or abuse,
prolong stress, a recent tragedy or loss, gender; women are more likely than
men to attempt suicide but men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
When a suicide crisis presents itself friends and family are often the first people to be present and it’s important to deal with the crisis in a calm controlled open honest manner. It’s important to tell that individual that there is help, being treated can make things get better but it takes time and professionaltreatment and offer to get help for that person. Remove guns or weapons or pills that one might easily access at an impulsive moment. Remember the
brain does not think clearly when there are untreated mental health issues or
substance abuse. The individual most likely does not have the insight and
clarity to identify that they need help or have the ability to get help for
Mental health professionals are trained to help people understand
their feelings, to improve mental wellness and resiliency. They help a person
with thoughts of suicide recognize their ineffective patterns of thinking and
behavior, validate their feelings and learn new coping skills. It is important
to remember that suicidal thoughts are a symptom just like any other and they
can be treated and they can improve over time. There is hope, often the
possibility of improvement over time is so difficult to see they just need
support until they can see it themselves.
As a primary care doctor, I see how family history, personal history of trauma, chronic medical
and mental health conditions particularly those untreated, affect one’s thinking patterns. Alcohol and substance abuse exacerbate suicidal thoughts and attempts. One out of every five persons who commit suicide were found to have alcohol in their system.
As a provider who addresses all the patients’ needs including alcohol and substance abuse, I have seen how chemicals affect one’s mood and increase the risk of suicide and other risky behaviors. I have lost a patient to suicide and it’s such a loss. I’ve had patients who have been successful in their treatment of their mood disorder and learn new behaviors and lifestyle modification to improve their life. When this happens, it is such a joy.
I’ve seen how suicide affects those who are left, the children, the parents, the siblings, life partners who are left living without that person. In my own family there’s a history of multi-generational suicide and I see how it affected my family members over the long term. There’s always a loss, they will always love the people that they’ve lost. The world was a more beautiful place with those people in it. Unfortunately, those suffering couldn’t see it and couldn’t get the help that they needed. We are more fortunate now, access to treatment is more accessible if we keep our eyes open, our hearts open and our hands out for support and contine to break the stigma. If we say something when we see that another is struggling and have a higher level of
acuity and sensitivity, we can help those in pain know that they are valuable, they are important, they are loved and suicide is not the only way out of their grief and discomfort. There is help and there is hope.
To the youth I say “please don’t hide in social media, try not to distance yourself or at least talk to your friends, text or DM your friends, your family and professionals and don’t be afraid to say that you need help.” They want you here and so do Iand it can get better.
· Call or text 988
· 988 lifeline.org to reach the 988 suicide orcrisis lifeline
· Call Nami hotline at 800–9 50–6264 or texthelpline 262640 Suicide Prevention