September is Suicide Prevention Month

From the Covid-19 pandemic to natural disasters, it’s been a hard year. Many people who might already be depressed may find themselves stuck at home without much to do but think. Mental health is an important topic that needs to be constantly discussed.  Now is an especially important time for such a discussion.

September is Suicide Prevention Month.  Now is the perfect time to highlight resources that can help people cope with suicidal thoughts and reach out to the right people when they are struggling.

Facts About Suicide in the United States

Every 12 minutes, someone dies from suicide in the US. It is the second leading cause of death for youths between the ages of 10 and 24.

In Tennessee, (as of 2016), suicide claimed over 1000 lives yearly and was listed as the 10th leading cause of death in the state.

It’s especially important to make help available to those who seek it. As of 2018, data showed that over 125 Tennesseans reached out to crisis services for some help on issues related to suicide.

This issue cuts across gender, age, social-economic, ethnic, and racial boundaries. The one constant is that the victims often experience depression.

Depression and Suicide

Depression is the major psychiatric condition associated with suicide. Two-thirds of people who die from suicide are clinically depressed; and the risk of suicide in depressed individuals is about 20 times that of the general population [1].

It’s pertinent that we discuss the risk factors as well as the warning signs of suicide so people can recognize when they or someone they love is experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Below are some of the risk factors associated with an increased occurrence of suicidal behavior [2]

➢ Mental disorders

➢ History of trauma or abuse

➢ Social isolation

➢ Exposure to suicide

➢ Barriers to accessing mental healthcare

➢ Alcohol or drug abuse

How Drug and Alcohol Abuse is Linked to Suicide

Abuse of alcohol and drugs is a huge risk factor for suicide and suicide attempts. Substance abuse can interfere with a person’s relationships, job, and health, affecting the quality of his or her life. That is why such individuals are often prone to suicidal ideation and attempts.

Statistics show that individuals with alcohol dependence have 10 to 14 times greater risk of committing suicide. Also, alcohol and opioid intoxication accounts for approximately 22% and 20% of suicide deaths respectively. There were also suicides associated with other substances including marijuana (10.2%), cocaine (4.6%), and amphetamines (3.4%).

A collaborative effort between substance use treatment providers, mental health care providers, suicide prevention teams, and family members in caring for an affected individual is the ideal support team when drugs and alcohol are risk factors [3].

Warning Signs

Being able to identify the signs and behavioral patterns that could lead to suicide in someone may be the difference between saving them and losing them.

The following are some of the most common signs troubled individuals with suicidal tendencies exhibit [4]:

•Withdrawal from family and friends

•Significant changes in behavior

•Loss of interest in things including appearance

•Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol

Here’s How You Can Help

Recognizing that someone is going through tough times and might be suicidal is one thing. Sadly, it doesn’t count for much if you don’t know what to do next.

Below are some of the things you can do to help those in need [5]:

1. Be there for them.

2. Talk to them without being judgmental.

3. Be empathetic.

4. Don’t patronize by pretending to understand.

5. Be honest and know the limits of your help. Instead help them seek professional support.

The Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line is 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471). This is a 24/7/365 line that can offer help to anyone with a mental health crisis.

If you’re not in Tennessee, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you are feeling suicidal, remember you are not alone. Never be ashamed to ask for help. There are numerous resources out there. Taking that first step is the hardest part, but finding the help you need will be worth it.

References

1. Facts about Suicide. TSPN. https://www.tspn.org/the-facts-about-suicide/. Accessed 08-09-2020.

2. Risk Factors. TSPN. https://www.tspn.org/risk-factors/. Accessed 08-09-2020.

3. A Closer Look at Substance Use and Suicide. Michael Esang and Saeed Ahmed. Psychiatry Online. https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2018.130603. Accessed 08-09-2020.

4. Warning Signs. TSPN. https://www.tspn.org/warning-signs/. Accessed 08-09-2020.

5. September is Suicide Prevention Month. Julia Rhea. Southwest.tn. https://www.southwest.tn.edu/Scoop/2018/september/suicide.htm. Accessed 08-09-2020.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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