The 10th leading cause of death in the United States is preventable with love, vigilance, listening and the proper medical attention.
An estimated 45,000 lives a year, about 123 a day or five an hour, are lost to suicide in the United States, according to a news release from the Four County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMhs) Board and the Four County National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) branch, noting September as National Suicide Prevention Awareness month.
In 2017, 26 residents of Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties took their own lives with another 14 deaths reported in the same area through July of this year, according to the release.
Although statistics for suicide attempts are not recorded, it has been estimated that for every completed suicide there are 25 attempts.
And, while it is commonly assumed that suicide deaths among young people are high since suicide is the second leading cause of death among age groups 10 to 34, the highest rate for suicide actually occurs among white, middle-aged men.
National suicide rates have trended up since 1999 and while the rate is highest for middle-aged men, suicide rates for women are beginning to catch up.
“Perhaps those numbers are surprising because suicide and the causes that lead to suicide attempts and completions are difficult topics to talk about with family, friends and others,” Lou Levy, secretary of NAMI Four County, wrote in a news release.
“However, it’s a conversation that could save lives, according to mental health organizations, if people were as comfortable and willing to talk about mental health as they are about other common ailments such as high blood pressure, cancer and aching, aging joints,” Levy added.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported that 90 percent of the people who die by suicide had an underlying mental illness at the time of their death, and that, many times, it was not being treated. Major depression is the most common condition associated with suicide.
The goal this September is to “help people understand that mental illnesses are common health issues that affect one in five adults. Further, these illnesses are medical illnesses that have causes with effective treatments that control the symptoms 70 to 90 percent of the time, depending on the illness.”
“The simple message: Depression is treatable. Suicide can be prevented,” wrote Levy, “but only if we begin to talk with others about mental health and suicide.”
“One of the biggest obstacles to preventing suicide is overcoming the stigma that too often prevents people from getting the help that could save their lives,” said Tonie Long, the Four County ADAMhs Board representative to the Four County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
To combat that stigma, Long explained that the ADAMhs Board and the Coalition have initiated a number of community awareness efforts, including radio public service announcements, short ads that are shown before the featured movies in the area’s movie theaters, and posters that many of the area gun shops are using as well as free shooting targets printed with a suicide awareness message.
Signs to watch for in those at risk for suicide:
• Talking or writing about death or killing themselves.
• Increased alcohol or drug use.
• Aggressive behavior.
• Social withdrawal from friends, family and others.
• Dramatic mood swings.
• Impulsive or reckless behavior.
Imminent danger signs:
• Putting affairs in order and giving away possessions.
• Saying goodbye to friends and family.
• Mood shifts from despair to calm.
• Planning to acquire the tools needed to complete suicide.
“It can be frightening and intimidating when a friend or loved one reveals or shows signs of suicidal thoughts,” the organizations’ release states. “However, not taking the thoughts of suicide seriously can have a devastating outcome.
“If you think a friend or family member will hurt himself or someone else, do not leave him alone. Call 911 immediately.”
Prior to an imminent crisis, there are a few ways to approach the situation, including:
• Remove all means to complete suicide (guns, knives or stockpiled pills) if possible.
• Calmly ask simple and direct questions, such as: “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
• Talk openly and honestly about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as: “Are you having thoughts about suicide?” or “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
• Ask what you can do to help the person get through the crisis.
• Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice.
• Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong.
• If the person asks for something, provide it as long as it is safe and reasonable.
• If the person is having hallucinations or delusions, be gentle and sympathetic, but do not get in an argument about whether the delusion or hallucination is real.
Phone resources available 24/7:
• 1-800-468-4357: A local crisis hotline that can provide local referrals and resources. Operated by A Renewed Mind Behavioral Health.
• 1-800-273-8255: The national suicide prevention hotline.
• Text “4 HOPE” to 741741 (A national line staffed by trained crisis counselors.)
National Alliance on Mental Illness: nami.org/suicideawarenessmonth
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: afsp.org
Four County Suicide Prevention Coalition: 4countysuicideprevention.org:
More information is available on NAMI’s website, www.nami.org.