Taking Care of Ourselves and Others: Preventing Suicide

Two celebrities took their lives in May 2018 – designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain. Suicide is a cause of death that is both preventable and on the rise. According to the CDC, suicide rates in this country increased by 25% between 1999 and 2016. 

In times like these, where suicide is once again a topic of national conversation, we must be vigilant about the threat of contagion. This is a real and dangerous phenomenon that leads to a measurable spike in suicides following significant media exposure and public discussion of prominent suicides.

This happened in my small town in Connecticut. Several years ago a popular and well-known athlete hung himself in the family home only to be discovered by his younger brother. The news of his death spread like wildfire through the town. It was a tragedy felt by all. Within 24 hours, a second boy took his life in the same manner. His mother was in another part of the house at the time. Within two days following the second suicide, a third child, a girl, attempted to end her life but failed, thankfully. These children attended the same school and were very close in age. As a result, all of the children in the school were closely monitored for fear that there was a “suicide pact.” 

To halt the spread of suicidal ideation, and to care for ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors effectively, we must be fully informed about the specific ways in which we can help prevent suicide. Here are some tips for winning the fight against suicide. First, learn the risk factors. There are a number of factors that can place an individual at increased risk of suicide. If you or someone you know has one or more of these risk factors, proactive and preventative measures are even more important. These risk facts include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • History of depression or other serious mental health conditions
  • Serious physical health concerns such as pain, chronic conditions, and the like
  • History of prior suicide attempts or a family history of suicide
  • Stressful life events such as financial strain, divorce, loss of a loved one, relocating to an unfamiliar place, job loss, and natural disaster
  • Traumatic life events or history such as bullying, physical abuse and sexual assault
  • Access to firearms or other lethal weapons
  • Impaired judgment due to substance abuse such as drugs or alcohol
  • Past or current work in a high-risk industry such as military veterans, healthcare workers, or farmers
  • Heavy exposure to suicides such as first responders  

Second, watch for the signs. If you suspect that a loved one or neighbor is at risk for suicide, watch for these warning signs:

  • Words that express a desire to kill oneself, even in a joking manner, a feeling of hopelessness, having no reason to live, being a burden on others, or feeling trapped in a difficult situation
  • Behaviors such as increased use of substances such as drugs or alcohol, looking for suicide tips or methods online or in conversation with others, withdrawing from favorite activities, isolating from family or friends, sleep changes, giving away prized possession, or saying goodbye 
  • Moods such as depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, shame, rage or uncontrollable anger, agitation, or a sudden sense of relief after a prolonged depression
  • Mood changes, including a sudden elevation in mood
  • Rage or uncontrollable anger

Third, don’t be afraid to start a conversation with someone who is exhibiting the warning signs and may be at risk for suicide. When you’ve identified risk factors and/or warning signs, don’t be afraid to initiate a conversation to directly address the issue with the person. The following tips from the Suicide Prevention Lifeline may be helpful:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide
  • Be willing to listen. Allow your expressions of feelings to show and accept the feelings that you are having while listing to your loved one or neighbor
  • Do not judge. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Do not lecture on the value of life
  • Don’t agree to keep your concerns secret. Seek support from professionals or others
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available, not glib reassurance
  • Take action by removing weapons, pills, alcohol, and other means for acting on suicidal ideation 

Fourth, be proactive about your own emotional health. According to the Campaign for Change Director, there are five general habits that each of us should repeat consistently for good emotional health. They are:

  • Take care of yourself physically by eating healthfully, exercising regularly, and getting good sleep
  • Check in with family, friends, and counselors on a regular basis
  • Engage with others in a meaningful way. After all, you cannot be healthy if your relationships are unhealthy
  • Relax with mediation, gently activity, gardening, cooking, and other activities that bring you pleasure and gratification
  • Know the signs and symptoms of emotional suffering in yourself and others

Finally, stay informed and involved. Seek out additional resources to educate yourself on the ways that you can take action to help prevent suicide. If you or someone you know is in danger, take it seriously and act appropriately. 

  • Call 211 Infoline for the names of counselors and for guidance and support
  • Call (800) 273.8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (press 1 for veterans)
  • Call 911 if it is a true emergency requiring immediate response
  • Call (800) (On Facebook Messenger: using the “send message” button at facebook.com/crisistextline will connect you to a live crisis counselor

Take care of yourself and those around you . . .

This Blog is made available by me, an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Connecticut. I am not a recruiter, hiring manager, or career agent. I am not expert in any of the areas or issues related to job search activities. I am merely sharing my job search experiences. This Blog/Web Site is designed to provide accurate information on the subjects presented but should not be considered professional or legal advice.

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