Suicide is a difficult subject but it is an issue about which we need to know more.  It is important to understand the behaviors and to know the signs you may observe in a person who is considering suicide.  The good news is that you have the ability to make a difference and save a life.  Suicide can often be prevented.

Over the past months, it has been very disturbing to hear of a number of suicides in our area and in our country.  There are few people who can say they have not been affected by a family member, friend or acquaintance who has either attempted or completed suicide.   You may have thoughts of suicide yourself and don’t know how to get help.  Although suicide is never the solution, there are people who feel it is their only way out.  What can we do to change this situation and help those in need?

The highest suicide rates of any age group occur among people aged 65 years and older.  Men account for 84% of suicides in the elderly population.  Risk factors are different with older people.  Depression is the main factor in most suicides. In addition, many of the elderly also suffer from social isolation, loss of a spouse, medical illness, family problems, financial trouble, physical disability, chronic pain, misuse of alcohol or medication. These issues may leave a person feeling helpless and hopeless.

The warning signs include:

–       Loss of interest in activities that were usually found enjoyable

–       Less social interaction, poor self-care and grooming

–       Lack of compliance with medical care and treatments

–       Experiencing a significant personal loss

–       Feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless

–       Putting affairs in order, disposing of valuables and changing wills

–       Obtaining lethal weapons or hoarding medication

–       Being pre-occupied with death and lack of concern for personal safety

–       The most significant risk factor that needs to be addressed is a person’s expression of suicide intent

How to prevent suicide:

–       Ask the person if they are thinking of suicide.  (This can be very difficult, but very important.)

–       Listen to what they have to say and encourage them to let their feelings be known.  (You may need to be persistent.)

–       Limit their access to any means of suicide such as firearms and stock piles of medications.

–       Treat the depression and work to improve the other issues that may have put the person at risk for suicide.

–       Get professional help by contacting her/his physician, mental health provider or calling the suicide hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

We recently held an in-service at the Farrar Home entitled “Suicide Awareness and Prevention”.  This three hour training program was presented by a “Safe Talk” representative whose teenage son had completed suicide.  Needless to say, he was an insightful educator.  Our staff was trained to recognize behaviors a person may exhibit which could lead to suicide.  They were given suggestions on what they can do to help.  This type of training is invaluable when it comes to helping an individual in crisis.  I would highly recommend this program.  We all need to take the time and make the effort to learn how to help.   You can make a difference by understanding the warning signs of suicide, learning how to communicate with the person and knowing how to get the appropriate help for the person at risk.    Suicide Is Never The Solution.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.