LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – While not a pleasant subject, suicide deserves discussion. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that in 2020, the most recent year available, 12.2 million adults thought about suicide and nearly 46,000 people died of it.
And talking about it is not harmful. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states: “Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma but also allows individuals to seek help, rethink their opinions, and share their stories with others. We all need to talk more about suicide.”
Jacob Smith, section chief for the Substance Misuse Branch at the Arkansas Department of Health, states suicide has no single cause although depression, often undiagnosed or untreated, is a common factor.
“Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair,” Smith stated. “Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk for suicide.”
But how can you tell if someone may be contemplating suicide?
“Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors,” Smith stated. “This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.”
Facts About Suicide – CDC
Smith pointed out that behaviors like withdrawing from activities or hobbies, isolating from family or friends, giving away prized possessions, increased drug or alcohol use (especially if this is after a recovery period), aggression, agitation or revenge-seeking could all be signs of suicidal thoughts.
“As a society, we should not be afraid to speak up about suicide, to speak up about mental illness or to seek out treatment for an individual who is in need. Eliminating the stigma starts by understanding why suicide occurs and advocating for mental health awareness within our communities.”NAMI
If you see someone acting this way, it is time to ask questions.
“If you notice any of the warning signs or invitations for help, ask the person directly about their feelings, even though it may be awkward. Listen to what the person has to say and take it seriously, Smith stated. “Just talking to someone who really cares can make a big difference. If they respond with a ‘yes,’ let them know that you are glad they shared with you and offer to seek additional help, such as a therapist or counselor.”
Here Smith reminds us that a call to 988, the national suicide prevention emergency number, for after-hours outreach to a therapist is one option. The service is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Finally, if you have reached out to someone, and they have admitted they need help, be reassuring.
“Let the person know that this is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about. In fact, it takes true strength to reach out for help,” Smith said.