Mental Health: Suicide … giving up on life

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher Stowe, American Author, 1811-1896

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 45,000 individuals commit suicide each year in the United States; that is about 121 suicides per day.

It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. For every suicide there are 25 failed attempts, and the number of admissions to hospitals for suicidal attempts is close to 500,000 per year.

Contrary to popular belief, the rates of suicide are highest in age groups among adults ages 45-64; the majority, 7 out of 10, being males (although females have the highest numbers of suicide attempts).

Of primary concern, and the reason behind writing this article, is the growing numbers of suicides among our young people and military veterans, ages 15 to 24 in particular. The Veterans Administration reports that approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day. These are the highest rates since the VA began keeping record of such, and is a much higher number than in the general population.

In the general population of civilians, there is a growing number of youth committing suicide as well, primarily as a result of increase use of opioids, and the resultant overdose on opioids; which has blossomed into a national crisis.

In a report released this month by the Veterans Administration, a study of veterans use of drugs and alcohol as related to suicide, it was found that Veterans who have drug and/or alcohol problems are more than twice as likely to die by suicide as their comrades; and women Veterans with substance use disorders have an even higher rate of suicide — more than five times that of their peers.

The highest risk rates, as the study found, are among those who misuse prescription sedative medicines, such as tranquilizers and opioids.

Of additional major concern, were the findings that clearly two-thirds of the suicides involved firearms, and one-quarter of the suicides were among Veterans with substance use disorders by intentional poisoning. And, of equal concern, are the suicides of youth from the ever growing problems of opioid poisoning. This is a major problem which needs to be curtailed.

Research has consistently shown us that suicides cannot be prevented with certainty, but risks can often be reduced with timely intervention…we just need to know the signs.

Veterans, particularly those of the current wars in the Middle East, are at extreme risk these days…the stress of battle, multiple deployments to the war zone which create extreme stress to the individuals and their families, and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that creates…all markers for suicidal ideations, attempts, and suicide completions.

Other Veterans as well, those who took part in the Vietnam War, are still at risk from PTSD even after these many years since their service.

Our youth, giving in to peer pressure and having the rebellious behaviors as they attempt “to find their place in the world,” may become depressed to the point of suicide; or begin to take potent illicit drugs or alcohol leading to intentional overdosing on the chemical or having alcohol poisoning.

And then there are the elder adults, whom are at the highest risk for suicide, may end their lives intentionally due to disease, family problems, loss of jobs, and a myriad of other reasons.

The vast majority of those individual who are contemplating suicide do exhibit signs of their intention; excessive sadness or moodiness, having a sense of hopelessness, sleep problems, sudden calmness (this is perhaps the most important sign as it is and indicator that the person has made a decision and plan to end their life), withdrawal from friends and social activities, changes in personality and/or appearance, dangerous or self-harmful behavior, recent trauma or life crisis, increased use of alcohol and/or illicit drugs, talking about being a burden to others, relating that they have no reason to live, and making threats of suicide.

What can a person do if they think someone is suicidal? It is known that people who receive support from friends and family who care about them, and those having the ability to access mental health services, are less likely to act on their suicidal impulses.

One should not be afraid to ask if the person is depressed or suicidal, to ask if the person is seeing a counselor or taking medication, letting them know that their mood is temporary and treatable, and, above all, let the person know that you are someone who cares about them.

If you know someone that you suspect is in immediate danger of committing suicide, then do not leave the person alone; ask the person to give you any weapons he or she may have and keep them away from sharp objects, help them contact their doctor or therapist if they are already in treatment, try to keep the person as calm as possible, call 911 or take the person to an emergency room.

As one whom spent many years working in the fields of mental health and substance abuse, to include suicidal crisis intervention, my colleagues and I can assure you that many suicides can be prevented and curtailed…we just need to know the signs and what each of us can do to prevent them. Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!