As fall approaches us, September also brings attention to an uncomfortable topic, suicide.
Sept. 8-14 is National Suicide Prevention Week. It is a painful subject to bring light to, but it is important to promote awareness of the devastating truths of suicide to help prevent future tragedies and no one is immune to being affected by suicide. According to the most recent suicide study done by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, in 2016, the second leading cause of death in people ages 15-34 in our state of Nebraska was suicide and it was the 10th leading cause of death overall.
In a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) article titled “Substance Use and Suicide: A Nexus Requiring a Public Health Approach,” it’s reported that 20% of deaths by suicide have opiates involved and 22% involve alcohol intoxication. This is an alarming number of young individuals.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and as social media trends on this topic spreading awareness, it is typically after a tragedy has already occurred. In today’s society we have television shows like “13 Reasons Why” and social media to broadcast the raw, and at times inaccurate, stories of suicide. Opinions and personal accounts are easily shared through technology, but at the same time these outlets are used to judge, ridicule and spread hate that too often fuels or becomes the source of another death by suicide. It’s troublesome to see how quickly one negative comment can influence another person to contemplate taking their own life instead of saving one.
We all experience trauma and difficult times in our lives, but we are all influenced differently. When major events take place, we are reminded to check in with those affected and offer support. But what about the individuals who are greatly impacted by events some don’t consider big? It’s often difficult to recognize when someone is having suicidal thoughts, making prevention efforts challenging.
However, if we reframe our prevention methods and become trauma-informed individuals who empathize with all sizes of crises, we may be able to reduce the likelihood of someone choosing to die by suicide, or feeling as though that is their only solution. As a community, we can utilize the same social media methods to spread compassion and support before the permanent act of suicide has been carried out. Maybe we don’t know what someone is personally struggling with, but this makes our random acts of kindness or friendly gestures that more powerful to those who are suffering.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, common warning signs we can watch for include increased use of drugs or alcohol, withdrawal from activities they typically enjoy, isolating from peers and family, change in sleep patterns, giving away possessions, talking about having no purpose, expressing feelings of hopelessness or unbearable pain. They also say people who consider suicide often display new or sudden symptoms of depression, anxiety, shame, agitation, anger or sudden improvement from previous ailments.
With this knowledge and through sharing our own community resources, we can greatly impact those around us who may not know where to turn or who to turn to. Suicide is a tragedy. However, prevention efforts are growing and we have an opportunity, or rather a social responsibility, to offer support in order to help others struggling with life’s big and small crises — individuals who may be closer to our social circles than we assume. Our community is home to over 50 mental health and substance use therapists, soon to be two hospitals and a crisis stabilization and detox unit. Help is close!
At times, money is the barrier and more providers are offering payment plans and sliding scale fees, so don’t be afraid to ask. Currently, The Friendship House Counseling Clinic is sponsoring a bilingual intern who is able to temporarily see clients at no cost. There are also several national hotlines available at all hours, every day of the week, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that is available in both English (1-800-273-TALK) and Spanish (1-888-628-9454), the SAMHSA National Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) and the Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741). To help those who feel suicide is their only option, do your part and share these accessible options our community offers so we can advertise more success stories rather than consoling our neighbors after it’s too late.