“Talking about suicide saves lives,”
- Kathy Wallace, President of the Northeast Suicide Prevention Initiative
REGION—The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) noted in June that “...suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state,” and is currently sitting as the tenth leading cause of death in the nation.
According to CDC statistics, almost 45,000 Americans aged 10 and older died by suicide in 2016.
In both 2016 and 2017, Wayne County saw 17 lives claimed by suicide and only half as many in 2015, according to the annual Coroner's report.
As a state, Pennsylvania's suicide rate has increased by 34.3 percent between 1999 and 2016, according to the CDC's Vital Signs data.
With that in mind, the month of September, especially this week, is dedicated to raising awareness for suicide prevention.
“We still don't know what causes suicide,” stated Kathy Wallace, President of the Northeast Suicide Prevention Initiative (NSPI), a volunteer-run, non-profit organization dedicated to reducing suicide rates through awareness and educational measures.
Suicide is more than just an urge to kill oneself, explained Wallace.
More often than not, those who commit suicide are suffering from a great deal of emotional pain.
“People don't necessarily want to die,” said Wallace, “They're in emotional pain and want that to stop.”
Factors causing this pain can be related to hardship, loss, prejudice, discrimination, and major life-changing events.
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, stressful events which can precipitate a crisis that leads to a suicide attempt include the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, an arrest or serious financial problems.
“Sometimes your brain lies to you,” said Wallace, explaining individuals can fall into a cycle of feeling worthless and burdensome as a result of some of these events.
A good way to alleviate those feelings is to talk about them with a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional, said Wallace.
“Talking about suicide saves lives,” she stated.
How to help
For those concerned about whether a loved one is thinking about suicide, “Don't be afraid to ask,” said Wallace. “Asking saves lives.”
Initiating the discussion can be enough to help a loved one out of a destructive cycle and onto a path of recovery, especially considering it may be difficult for them to seek help on their own.
In addition to talking about suicide and encouraging an attemptee to open up, Wallace recommends removing their access to lethal means.
According to statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 51 percent of all suicides in 2016 were caused by firearms.
Wallace explained removing someone's access to these and other harmful implements during a time of crisis has been shown to decrease the chance for a suicide to happen.
What to look for
Keeping an eye out for certain warning signs and risk factors is important to preventing a suicide.
Wallace noted one of the most important things to look out for is a sudden change in personality such as excessive sleeping or inability to sleep, an increase in irritability and a greater tendency toward isolation.
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, other serious warning signs for suicide include someone talking more about feeling trapped, in unbearable pain for burdensome to others, increased uses of drugs or alcohol, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge, and displaying extreme mood swings.
The Resource Center notes major risk factors for suicide include prior suicide attempts, misuse and abuse of alcohol and other drugs, mental disorders (including depression and other mood disorders), access to lethal means, knowing someone who's died by suicide, social isolation, chronic disease and disability, and lack of access to behavioral health care.
To help raise awareness for suicide prevention, NSPI holds two walks each year.
The first of these has already passed for the year, but there is an upcoming awareness walk at the Wallenpaupack High School on Saturday, September 29.
There is also a suicide awareness support group that meets on the fourth Thursday of each month in Wayne Memorial Hospital for those 16 and older looking for help.
Similarly, Wallace noted there is a support group for victims of tragic loss, including suicide, which meets in the Hawley Silk Mill on the third Tuesday of each month.
For those in immediate need of suicide support, they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 or text “TALK” to 741741.
More information about suicide prevention and awareness is available from the NSPI Facebook page and their website, https://www.northeastsuicidepreventioninitiative.org.
Information is also available online from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (https://afsp.org), the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (www.sprc.org), and the CDC (www.cdc.gov).