Suicide is everyone’s business. It can be difficult to talk about, but it’s a topic that can’t be ignored. According to the American Association of Suicidology, over 40,000 Americans died by suicide in 2012; that’s about 110 suicides a day, or one every 13 minutes, according to the American Association of Suicidology, 2012.
The numbers are even higher among youth. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages 10-24, according to the Washington State Department of Health, 2010. On the most recent Healthy Youth Survey, 2014, given to Washington students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 every two years, 18 percent of Whatcom County 10th graders reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide.
The numbers are alarming, but there is hope. We don’t have to be mental health professionals to help someone in need. Connection can prevent suicide and with a little training and a lot of compassion we can help people in crisis.
The first step in helping someone in crisis is recognizing the warning signs of suicide. Most people contemplating suicide will display verbal or non-verbal warning signs. Some common warning signs are: talking about death, giving away prized possessions, isolation from friends and family, loss of interest in life, irritability, or even changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
The next step is to intervene. This is the most difficult part, but it’s necessary. Express concern and to ask the question, “Are you thinking of suicide?” If the answer is “yes” show commitment, connection and compassion. You will not plant the idea of suicide in the person’s head by asking the question. Talking about suicide may be the only way to prevent it.
The last step is to get help. Non-professionals can intervene in a crisis, but professionals must be sought out to provide the proper care for suicidal thinkers. Approximately 95 percent of individuals who attempt suicide have a mental illness, according to the American Association of Suicidology, 2012. There are many resources available and it’s important that you connect the suicidal thinker to someone who can help.
That’s it; three steps that could save someone’s life. If you want to learn more about how you can help prevent suicide, join me for a free training 6-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 6 at St. Luke’s Community Health Education Center, 3333 Squalicum Parkway. While the training is free, registration is required and can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/MADHOPE.