September is Suicide awareness month and this email is very important because you really never know who is dealing with this right at this very moment.  When I write about suicide, I write from a personal space.  My mother threatened suicide numerous times and ultimately did it many years ago.  I learned a lot and want to share some tips.  First, let’s look at some facts.

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the US and Oklahoma ranks 6th in the nation.  We had the highest rates ever in 2020.  Men are 3.88 more likely to commit suicide than women.  You may find some comfort in knowing that just because someone has unsuccessfully attempted suicide before according to a meta-analysis nearly 70% will not have any further attempts.  Only approximately 7% of “attempters” will eventually die by suicide.  However, most people who die by suicide have not had a prior attempt.

Having been thru this I will tell you that people say the dumbest things regarding suicide.  I heard all of these:  suicide is selfish, suicide is not facing reality, suicide is vindictive, suicide is godless.  There are many reasons people attempt suicide and these are not the reasons!  Here are five reasons to consider:

    • *Depression – a true hopelessness is the main underlying emotion. A deep sense of suffering combined with the hopelessness leads them down a path of trying to escape the pain.
    • *Mental illness – People with certain mental illnesses like schizophrenia have a higher likelihood of attempting suicide especially when in a psychotic state.
    • *True cry for help – these individuals are suffering from internal or emotional pain but have not been able to alert others around them of their issues. These people often attempt in ways they believe won’t actually harm themselves (or so they think).
    • *Accidental – this is very common in teenagers. Substance abuse gone wrong is a real problem.
    • *Social isolation – this deep loneliness is one of the leading causes of suicide especially among men. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the statistics for suicide in young men aged 10-34 increased in 2019 and 2020 when other age groups showed a decrease.

READ ON to make sure you know what to do if you are presented with this situation…

If you are considering suicide please tap into the many resources available, NOW.  Here are some resources:

      • *In the U.S., anyone needing help can call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat. Services are free and confidential.
      • *U.S. veterans or service members who are in crisis can call 988 and then press “1” for the Veterans Crisis Line. Or text 838255. Or chat online.
      • *The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in the U.S. has a Spanish language phone line at 1-888-628-9454 (toll-free).

Often when someone is talking about suicide you really don’t know how serious they are.  So while categories like passive and imminent may be helpful let’s review some initial conversation tips to help ascertain the seriousness of the situation.  First and foremost, discussing how that person is feeling and actually talking about suicide will NOT increase the chance of that person doing it.  Studies show quite the opposite.  Often their thoughts getting out in the open helps relieve the situation.

      • 1.   Validate their feelings: now is not the time to tell them what they are thinking is foolish and there is no space to argue about what they are experiencing.  Simply telling them that it sounds like they are really struggling and asking them to tell you about it is the first step. Validate their feeling of feeling hopeless.  Tell them you want to listen and help if you can.
      • 2.  Encourage them to seek professional help. Offer to help them find the resources (hot lines etc).  The simple 9-8-8 number is a great start.
      • 3.  Ask the tough questions. Do you have a plan?  Do you feel like hurting yourself today?  Are you scared to be alone right now?  Have you ever thought how or when you would hurt yourself?
      • 4.  Develop a safety plan: If after discussing this you realize not only they are serious but this is an imminent situation do NOT leave them alone.  Call 9-1-1 or take them to the nearest emergency room.  Don’t listen to their protests, you would rather them live to be angry with you for intervening that dead.  If this person is not a close friend, call someone who is and who will have the ability to help. Remove any means that you are aware of like guns, medications, knives, etc if possible.
      • 5.  Teenagers: Talk to your teenagers and tell them if one of their friends is talking about suicide it is crucial they tell an adult so the appropriate help can be given. They are not betraying their friendship regardless if that friend asked them not to say anything.  This happened to one of my daughter’s friends and several of them went to the school counselor and told them the situation who alerted the parents.  This child was able to get help and is doing fantastic now!
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Often when someone commits suicide it is a complete surprise.  Although my mother had threatened to kill herself many times before when she actually did it was a huge surprise.  She had been doing so well and I had thought she was in a really good space.  Here are a few tips that might help you realize this person is contemplating it:

        1.   1.  Talking about suicide. Statements like “I wish I was dead” or “I wish I had never been born”
        2.   2.  Gathering the tools to complete the task. Stockpiling medications, buying a gun.
        3.   3.  Withdrawing from social interaction
        4.   4.  Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
        5.   5.  Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t see them again
        6.   6.  Change of personality including increasing mood swings, increased irritability

Take all signs of suicide behavior seriously and make time to ask those tough questions.  While it may be your responsibility to try and help this person, if they truly want to kill themselves it will not be your fault if they succeed.  This is very important to understand.  I could not have prevented my mother’s suicide.  I didn’t fail her as a daughter because she died.  She wasn’t selfish, she wasn’t retaliating and she wasn’t godless.  She had lost hope and couldn’t bear life any longer.

I hope that you never feel that depth of hopelessness and that you are never in a situation that one of your loved one is feeling that.  If you are then seek help right away.  Realize that you are not alone in this and there are resources to help you thru this.  You are very important to so many people and with the right help you can pull thru this!

To your health,

Laura