HARLINGEN – Because of the stigmas still associated with mental health, suicide is a topic that can be difficult to discuss.
However, such discussions are key when it comes to recognizing and understanding the warning signs that someone might be considering suicide, said Raul Rodriguez III, a licensed master social worker with Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen’s Geriatric Behavioral Health Unit.
“Suicide awareness is incredibly important because we can all prevent suicide,” Rodriguez said. “Understanding the issues regarding suicide and mental health is an important step in helping ourselves, helping others, and positively reframing the conversation around suicide.”
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017 alone, 47,173 Americans died by suicide and there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts. Such figures make efforts to raise awareness during Suicide Awareness Month critical to keeping loved ones safe, said Rodriguez.
While there is no one set of signs that someone might be considering hurting themselves, Rodriguez said that at-risk individuals often display certain characteristics or risk factors.
“Some of the risk factors include, but are not limited to a current or historical mental health diagnosis, alcohol and/or substance use disorders, feelings of hopelessness, history of trauma or abuse, access to lethal means, lack of social support, stressful life events (such as divorce, bullying, financial crisis, or psychosocial loss), exposure to another person’s suicide, and perceived stigma associated with mental health crisis,” he said.
Rodriguez said that the community can play an important role in preventing suicide by simply being aware of those around us and caring for their well-being.
“It is important to pay attention to what people say, how they act, and how they feel. A person considering suicide might talk about killing themselves, being a burden to others, or feeling hopeless,” he said. “Their behaviors might also signal a risk, especially if it is related to a painful event, loss, or change that results in suicide planning, isolation from family and friends, giving away prized possessions, new or increased aggression, and fatigue. Warning signs in someone considering suicide may also include a person exhibiting depression, anxiety, shame, or a sudden onset of relief or improvement in mood.”
Above all, Rodriguez said that those who are considering suicide should not be ashamed to seek help.
“Whether you, or someone you know, might have mental health concerns or suicidal ideations, be open and don’t be afraid to speak to someone,” he said. “We all have mental health just as we have physical health, and help is available.”
In an effort to provide comfort and healing to those impacted by the suicide of a loved one or family member, Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen Pastoral Services also offers a suicide support group. The group meets the third Tuesday of each month. For more information, call (956) 389-1194.
Emergency Services: 9-1-1
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Tropical Texas Behavioral Health Crisis Line: 1-877-289-7199
Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen Geriatric Behavioral Health Unit