Completed suicides are statistically rare, but Idaho has some of the highest rates of suicide in the United States, ranking fifth in the nation in 2015. Though rates are high, it’s important to know that recovery from suicidality is the norm. More than 90 percent of people who make attempts never go on to die by suicide. September is Suicide Prevention Month, so now is a good time to review how you can help someone who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts.
What are the warning signs that someone might be thinking about suicide?
We all should be learning and watching for warning signs. Knowing them can save a life. Warning signs include:
- Talking about wanting to die or completing suicide
- Looking for a way to hurt themselves by searching online, stockpiling pills or buying a gun
- Isolation and withdrawal
- Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped or being a burden to others
- Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Behaving recklessly
- Increased aggression, anger or irritability
- Change in sleeping habits – either too much sleep or too little
- Extreme mood swings
The risk is greater when these signs are new or happen more frequently. It’s also greater if these signs are linked to a painful or stressful event or a loss.
What should you do if you recognize some of these warning signs?
It’s important to know what to do when you see these warning signs. Ask the question directly: Are you thinking about killing yourself or contemplating suicide? Listen well. Do not leave that person alone. Instill hope with statements like, “I care if you live.” You also should do your best to safely restrict this person’s ability to a means of killing themselves including firearms and drugs. Or you may need to get the person to a mental health provider or the hospital. Don’t hesitate to call 911 if it’s an emergency.
What are some of the local suicide prevention resources we can use?
SPAN (Suicide Prevention Action Network) Idaho is the only statewide organization in Idaho dedicated to all aspects of suicide prevention including survivor of loss support. On their website (spanidaho.org), you can find suicide prevention resources covering a range of topics from warning signs, risk factors, youth suicide, school support, media guidelines and support group information.
There is also the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is available 24/7 at (208)398-4357 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Other resources include the Department of Health and Welfare’s 24-hour regional mental health crisis lines, as well as the Idaho Careline, which is available by dialing 2-1-1 anywhere in Idaho.
Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. Do what you can by watching for signs, asking the question and getting help.