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September is National Suicide Prevention Month, but professionals say suicide and mental health should always be discussed openly.
“One of the most troubling aspects of suicide is that it can affect people of all ages, groups and backgrounds,” said Tammy Johnston, Duke LifePoint physician at Swain Family Care, which is part of Duke LifePoint with the Harris Regional Hospital. “Suicide and suicide attempts also affect the health and well-being of friends, loved ones, co-workers and the community as a whole.”
In 2020, suicide was the ninth leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 64 and the second leading cause among 10 to 14 and 25 to 34 year olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although more women attempt suicide, men are more likely to die from their efforts, Johnston said.
Taking care of mental health, creating coping strategies and raising awareness about suicide are as important medically as raising awareness about other illnesses, said Keri Christensen, director of HopeLine.
“(In) many cultures, we feel like we have to handle things on our own; we cannot ask for help; we can’t talk about it,” she said. “It’s no different than if you have diabetes. You’re ready to talk about it and say, “I have diabetes, and it’s something I have to deal with every day…and do anything to stay healthy.” But we’re not there yet (with sanity). »
Since 1970, HopeLine has provided a telephone helpline for North Carolinians seeking help for crises ranging from relationships to mental health, including suicidal ideation.
“Our staff and volunteers are trained in de-escalation techniques and ways to help that person get back to a pre-crisis state and feel a little better about what’s going on,” said Lynn Allen, HopeLine program coordinator.
HopeLine offers resources beyond the response, including locating help or services in the client’s community. The organization also offers a reinsurance program where customers can sign up for a daily check-in call.
Often, stigmas such as weakness or moral failure are associated with mental illness and suicide, which can prevent people from seeking help. But an open discussion can lessen the stigma.
“Mental health, depression, anxiety is scientifically proven,” Allen said. “It’s a real thing; people experience it to the point of not wanting to be there anymore. Often they don’t want to die; they want the pain to stop.
“If you look at the world, especially as it is now, it’s a tough place to be,” she said. “It can sometimes seem very hopeless. Relationships are tough. Everything we do every day is difficult.
These stressors can be overwhelming, but when combined with a mental health disorder, they can be deadly.
Sometimes pushing or using coping mechanisms such as prayer, meditation, or diversions is not enough.
Other interventions such as medication or talk therapy might need to be combined with coping mechanisms, Christensen said.
“It’s a process of starting to feel better, and often a lot goes into it,” she said.
There are signs that can predict a person is at risk of attempting suicide, Johnston said.
Be aware of drastic changes in behavior or sudden new behaviors, showing feelings of hopelessness, making comments about committing suicide or having no reason to live, comments about being a burden to others. others or feeling trapped, expressing feelings of unbearable pain, or getting too much or too little sleep. Withdrawal from social activities, friends, or family is another possible warning sign that someone is in trouble.
People experiencing emotional difficulties may also increase their drug or alcohol use, Johnston said.
Someone who has planned to kill themselves might start donating valuable possessions or research methods to commit suicide.
Sometimes people who kill themselves appear to be happy and normal, so their death comes as a shock to those around them.
“I think when someone says, ‘It’s not something I thought they would do’, that, to me, tells me that the person who killed themselves probably didn’t ask for help. ‘assistance; or if they did, nobody was listening, or nobody was paying attention to some of the signs,” Allen said. “When someone gets to that point in their thinking process, often times those moments are very short. When they take that step to say, ‘I’m going to die by suicide,’ that’s a very small window of time that The thoughts may have been there, but the actual action is a very short moment.
Each person copes differently, but research has shown that certain people or groups are more vulnerable to suicide, Johnston said.
A family history of suicide or a family history of mental health conditions, people with substance abuse disorders, long-term chronic health conditions, especially if the illness causes physical pain, a history of childhood neglect, trauma or abuse; isolation, prolonged stress or a recent drama or sudden loss are all factors that can predispose someone to suicide.
“The more we start talking about it and de-stigmatizing it to say, ‘It’s okay if you’re not feeling well today, let’s talk about it’… I think the first thing is just to talking about it in our communities and with each other,” Allen said.
It’s also important not to be afraid to reach out to others if you think they’re struggling or considering self-harm.
For help, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 988, or call or text HopeLine North Carolina at 877-235-4525.
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