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National Prevention Week: Turning the Tide on Suicide

Friday, May 17, 2019
Hand reaching out of a body of water. Today's focus of National Prevention Week is on preventing suicide

Today’s focus of National Prevention Week is on preventing suicide. Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash.com

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the second leading cause among people between the ages of 10 and 34. It claimed 47,000 lives in 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

During National Prevention Week, NewBridge Services is urging individuals, families and community organizations to learn the warning signs and how to respond to someone in crisis. The goal is to reduce factors that make suicide more likely and increase those that promote resiliency. Engaging a person who is having suicidal thoughts can interrupt the ideation, establish a connection and prevent them from becoming a statistic.

Suicide By the Numbers

Young man sitting by water. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

In the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.

The suicide rate rose nearly 31 percent between 2001 and 2017 nationwide. New Jersey has the second lowest suicide rate of 8.1 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 10.6 million adults reported having serious thoughts about killing themselves, and 1.4 million attempted suicide but survived in the past year, the CDC reported.

Let’s work together to change that dire statistic. This article covers the warning signs of suicide, five steps to help someone in emotional pain, and additional resources about suicide awareness and prevention.

Warning Signs of Suicide

The National Institute of Mental Health provides these warning signs:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about tremendous guilt or shame
  • Feeling trapped, with no solutions
  • Experiencing unbearable pain, emotional or physical
  • Worrying about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Focusing on death frequently
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family, making a will

Risk Factors for Suicide 

People who have experienced child abuse, bullying and/or sexual violence are at increased risk for suicide. Men are four times more likely to die by suicide (although women make more attempts than men) and people under age 24 or above age 65 are at higher risk, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI also lists these risk factors:

  • A family history of suicide
  • Substance abuse
  • Intoxication (More than one in three people who die from suicide were under the influence.)
  • Access to firearms
  • A serious or chronic medical illness
  • Prolonged stress
  • Isolation
  • A recent tragedy or loss
  • Agitation and sleep deprivation

Five Action Steps

If you suspect a friend or family member is having suicidal thoughts, talk to them. 

“People have the misconception that by asking the question, ‘are you thinking about taking your life?’ it will put the idea in the person’s head, but that’s not true,” said Mary Vineis, NewBridge Services director of Community Response and Education. “If they have the idea, the question provides them the opportunity to start a conversation and offers hope.”

Offer to go with them for help and call 911 if necessary, Vineis said. The National Institute of Mental Health provides these five action steps when confronted with a person you suspect is suicidal:

  • Ask. While it may feel awkward, ask, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’
  • Keep them safe. Keep them away from lethal items and places.
  • Be there. Ask questions and listen to what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Help them connect. Make sure they get in touch with a mental health professional or someone very close to them.
  • Stay Connected. Follow up with the individual afterward because that can reduce the risk of a subsequent crisis. 

A person who has suicidal thoughts is NOT trying to get attention, but is experiencing extreme distress. They need help!

Resources, Including Suicide Prevention Hotline Suicide hotline logo

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call New Jersey’s round-the-clock suicide prevention hotline at NJ HOPELINE, 1-855-654-6735. Crisis chat is accessible through the website. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number is 1-800-273-TALK(8255). So you know, when you call you will hear a recording, followed by music, and then be connected with a trained counselor. The Crisis Text Line allows anyone in crisis to text a trained counselor 24/7 by texting 741741.

The New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services has designated screening services for every county in New Jersey that are available around the clock for anyone in crisis. Here is the link to the list by county: https://nj.gov/health/integratedhealth/dmhas/documents/MH_Screening_Centers.pdf

It’s important for someone who grapples with suicidal thoughts to create a safety plan, giving them tools to turn to in moments of crisis.  

NewBridge has made helping people learn how to respond effectively to mental health crises through Mental Health First Aid training a priority. “The goal is to arm as many adults as possible with skills to recognize when a person is in crisis and effectively intervene,” Vineis said. NewBridge began doing has been teaching MHFA for adults since 2013, and has added specialized trainings for helping children and adolescents, and college students. Learn more here. For more information, contact Vineis at mvineis@newbridge.org or 973-686-2228.

NewBridge offers individual counseling for adults and children grappling with suicidal feelings, as well as family counseling. The nonprofit provides suicide awareness training for educators so they can identify students at risk and get them the services they need. NewBridge also runs in-school and community education programs to help individuals identify the signs and symptoms of depression. Click here to read more about warning signs of suicide.

© 2019 Newbridge Services. E-mail And Voicemail Cannot Replace Counseling.