Raising awareness can reduce suicide

Nebraska City News-Press

The rate of suicides in the US has increased every year since 2006. The CDC estimates that 1.3 million adults attempt suicide each year. 

"Many in our communities can become particularly overwhelmed, which leads to hopelessness," said Suzanne Watson, CEO, Southwest Iowa Mental Health & Disability Services Region. The SWIA MHDS provides stability and support to help those suffering from anxiety, stress, and suicidal thoughts feel better.

National Suicide Prevention Week is an annual week-long campaign created to engage health professionals and the public about suicide prevention. The week will be recognized Sept. 5 through 11, with Sept. 10 designated as World Suicide Prevention Day.

"Knowing there is help can reduce suicide rates. People who have thoughts of suicide often feel relief when someone talks to them in a caring way. Acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideas," continued Watson.

There are ways to protect against suicidal thoughts and behaviors, such as support from family and community or feeling connected. 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAM)I Nebraska uses this month to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic.

NAMI Nebraska also uses this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness, and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services.

It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends, and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention. NAMI is here to help.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text “NAMI” to 741-741.

Sidebar: Suicide prevention questions and answers

VIctoria VanTol, LISW, family-centered services clinical specialist at Boys Town Iowa, answered some common questions about suicide for us. 

What are some of the warning signs of suicide?

Warning signs of suicide may be verbal or non-verbal, and include the following:

Talking about wanting to die

Feelings of guilt or shame

Talking about being a burden to others

Feeling empty, hopeless, or trapped

Feeling extremely sad, anxious, or angry

Researching ways to die or making a plan to die

Withdrawing from family and friends

Giving away important possessions or making a will

Extremely risky behavior, such as driving very fast

Extreme mood swings

Sleeping or eating more or less

Increased substance abuse

How can people help a person who has expressed an intention to kill themselves?

Provide empathy and a listening ear. Encourage them to talk about their reasons for wanting to stay alive. 

Encourage them to enlist the help of other supports, such as friends or family members. Refer to appropriate resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if they’re not in immediate danger. 

Ask them if they have a plan for when, where, why, and how they’re going to kill themselves, or if they have ever attempted suicide before. If they’re in immediate danger, offer to take them to the hospital. 

Call 911 if you believe someone is actively harming or getting ready to harm themselves and refuses to go to the hospital. Don’t promise to keep their suicidal thoughts a secret.

Why is there a Suicide Prevention Week? Why is it observed in early September?

It has become more normal to talk about and seek help for mental health issues, especially over the course of the pandemic. However, suicide is still a taboo, stigmatized topic. 

Many who struggle with suicidal thoughts are afraid to ask for help. 

Suicide Prevention Week helps to shift how the public perceives suicidal thoughts, so that more people experiencing them are empowered to find help and support. 

Hopefully, if public perception changes enough, people experiencing depression or other mental health issues feel comfortable enough talking about their symptoms to avoid reaching such a point of crisis.

Early September was designated as Suicide Prevention Week to give a dedicated time to talking about and normalizing the discussion of suicide. 

During this time, awareness is raised about the important protective factors that guard against suicide, such as strong, healthy relationships and supports like therapy. 

Research shows asking and talking about suicide doesn’t raise risks for people who are depressed, but is actually beneficial for people who are struggling in isolation. 

Suicide Prevention Week enables them to understand what they’re facing and learn how to get help.