Death by suicide claims the lives of more people in the United States than homicide and HIV combined. In addition, 1 million adults attempt suicide every year. Suicide touches everyone—all ages and backgrounds, all racial and ethnic groups, in all parts of the country. And the emotional toll on those left behind endures long after the event.
There is help—and hope—when individuals, organizations, and communities join forces to address suicide as a preventable public health problem. Over the past 20 years, suicide death rates among youth have declined by 40% and among older adults by 33%. Using a public health approach, we can reduce the suicide toll among all age groups. By drawing on research and implementing effective interventions, we can save lives. (http://www.sprc.org/library_resources/items/suicide-preventable-take-action-save-lives)
What does this mean for our local community? It means continuing to take opportunities to raise awareness – not only about the risk factors for suicide but also about what to do when we are concerned that someone we know may be contemplating suicide.
There are a number of fact sheets available for download from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (www.sprc.org) which focuses on the roles that we, as different community members, may play in the prevention of suicide.
The following excerpts of information are taken from a fact sheet available at http://www.sprc.org/sites/sprc.org/files/CoWorkers.pdf The Role of Co-Workers in Preventing Suicide:
Recognizing the Warning Signs
People who are in danger of suicide often display warning signs. You may be in a good position to recognize these signs in the people with whom you work, even if they are trying to conceal their problems. You see co-workers on a regular basis and know how they talk, act, and react to stress in the workplace. You can recognize changes in their behavior, personality, or mood. Such changes may be a proverbial “cry for help.”
The warning signs below may mean someone is at high risk for suicide. The risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
- Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
These signs are especially critical if the individual has attempted suicide in the past or has a history of or current problem with depression, alcohol, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
There is no foolproof way of telling that someone may be thinking of taking his or her life. But these warning signs can also indicate that a person has serious problems that affect his or her life, productivity, and the work environment. By recognizing and acting on these signs, you can help a co-worker find professional assistance and become healthier, happier, and more productive.
Responding to the Warning Signs
If you think a person is in immediate danger, do not leave him or her alone until you have found help. This may require mobilizing other co-workers or the person’s friends or family. If a crisis seems imminent, accompany your co-worker to an emergency room or community mental health crisis center. If your co-worker is unwilling to seek help or is uncooperative or combative, call 911 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Tell the dispatcher that you are concerned that the person with you “is a danger to themselves,” or “they cannot take care of themselves.” These phrases will alert the dispatcher that there is an immediate threat. Do not hesitate to make such a call if you suspect someone may be on the verge of harming him or herself.
Gogebic County Community Mental Health has a crisis line that is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide access to crisis intervention services for our local community, available by calling 1-800-348-0032.