September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month


According to the CDC, there were more than 42,000 individuals who died by suicide in the year 2014, leaving behind thousands of family members and friends to contemplate and understand the tragic suffering of their loss. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the US and 2nd leading cause of death among individuals ages 10-24. These rates have been increasing since 2013.

Individuals who experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors should seek immediate psychiatric or psychological assistance from a trained mental health practitioner. Thoughts or behaviors of a suicidal nature are dangerous and should be treated as a psychiatric/psychological emergency. Individuals who experience these thoughts are encouraged to obtain emotional support from friends and family as well. It is important for loved ones to understand that this issue (of having suicidal thoughts) does not suggest that the individual is weak or damaged in some way.

Warning Signs

• Threats to hurt oneself or looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
• Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are not typical
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Feelings of anxiety, agitation, or irritability/aggression
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping excessively
• Feeling a lack of purpose in life; questioning one’s reason for living
• Withdrawing from family, friends, and society
• Dramatic mood changes
• Engaging in impulsive, risky, or reckless behaviors
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Feelings of being trapped with no escape

Additional Warning Signs
• Putting one’s affairs in order
• Saying goodbye to friends and family
• Changes in mood from despair to a sense of calm, peacefulness
• Making plans to buy, steal, or borrow items needed to commit suicide such as a gun or pills

Risk Factors

• 90% of individuals who die by suicide have a history of mental health difficulties
• Substance abuse or intoxication
• Availability of firearms
• Family history of suicide
• Gender (While men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide, women are more likely than men to attempt suicide.)
• History of trauma or abuse
• Age (Individuals under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide)
• Prolonged stress
• Feelings of isolation
• Sleep deprivation or agitation
• A recent loss or tragedy

Treatment Considerations

Mental health professional are specially trained to help individuals who struggle with thoughts or feelings of self-harm. Psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral treatment can offer strategies and coping skills to recognize maladaptive patterns of behavior while learning healthy ways to understand and validate feelings of sadness or frustration. Medication can be beneficial in helping individuals who may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression by lowering the risk of them hurting themselves and improving general mood and behavior.

As a licensed counselor for many years now, I have had several clients who have struggled with tendencies to engage in suicidal thinking. Histories of abuse, trauma, divorce, or death of a close friend or family member can bring a person to a place of contemplating ending his or her own life. When an individual cannot commit to contracting with their therapist or psychiatrist for safety, hospitalization needs to be considered or implemented. Sometimes it may be the presence of an adult child or grandchild, a special event, or simply hanging onto the hope that things will eventually improve-these are the reasons the individual may ultimately decide to abandon the thought of ending their life. We have sometimes heard it said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and there is truth in this saying. Whatever the difficulties one may be facing today, there is always a new tomorrow, with new possibilities, new hope, and new solutions to consider. If you or a loved one has struggled with these demons, reach out for help and allow hope back into your life.

Resource Links

 The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- 1-800-273-8255
 National Alliance on Mental Illness- 1-800-950-6264
 American Association of Suicidology- (202)-237-2280
 Mental Health America- 1-800-969-6642
 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention- 1-888-333-2377
 The Jason Foundation- 1-888-881-2323
 SA/VE- Suicide Awareness/Voices of Education- (952)-946-7998

Quotations on Living Life

“Life isn’t meant to be lived perfectly…but merely to be LIVED. Boldly, wildly, beautifully, uncertainly, imperfectly, magically LIVED.”—-Mandy Hale

“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.”—–Roy Bennett

“Our life is now. And heaven is always there, but this life isn’t always there, but this life isn’t always here. Heaven is always there for us but this life is a gift to us!”—–C. JoyBell C.

“Be brave and take risks…you don’t have to have it all figured out to move forward.”—–Roy Bennett

“There has never been any great person who never met great trials and oppositions but their patience, tenacity, endurance and perseverance saw them to the end as great people.”—–Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

“This is how you spend the afternoon, and tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon. Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”—–Annie Dillard

“The good thing is that you are alive. The essential thing is that you must live.”—-Ernest Agyemang Yeboah

“Keep your heart free of hate.”——Lailah Gifty Akita

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”—–Buddha

“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”—Fred Rogers

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”—-Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong….to map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Warm Regards and Appreciation,
Linda Cook