Resources & Education

September 10th, 2014

Preventing suicide begins with simple steps and attentive ears

suicidepreventionAnxiety and depression awareness amongst teens and adults has become more prevalent within the last ten years. In 2009, the last year with available statistics, suicide was the 10th most common cause of death within the United States. With constant stressors from work, finances, education and social interaction life can feel completely unmanageable in an instant.

However, recognizing signs and symptoms of anxiety, depression or suicide can be incredibly difficult, leaving loved ones in the dark when it’s already too late.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is a condition in which a person feels extremely sad, discouraged, hopeless or unmotivated to engage with any part of life. Anxiety disorders differ in that a person can experience nervousness, irritability and problems sleeping and/or concentrating. However, most people experiencing anxiety disorders will develop problems with depression later in life.

In research detailed by the National Institute of Mental Health, studies found that mood disorders and substance abuse or dependence often occurred together. According to The National Comorbidity Study, men with alcohol dependence were at three times a higher risk while alcohol-reliant women were at four times a greater risk for suicide. Overall, NIMH reported that one third of individuals with depression also suffered from substance abuse.

Abusing prescription painkillers or opiates for self-medication can increase the frequency and strength of suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Opiates and narcotics may temporarily relieve some symptoms, however backlash and withdrawal can leave the user in a state of extremely dangerous depression, leading to a possible drug overdose from additional ingestion or even potential suicide.

Common risk factors for suicide include:

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide, mental disorders or substance abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Chronic physical illness and/or chronic pain
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior in others

Painkiller abuse is already incredibly dangerous, however, when combined with depression or anxiety disorders, emotional health can quickly plummet.

Warning signs of suicide can include:

  • Constant fixation on death, injury or dying
  • Apathy, loss of interest in life or activity
  • Difficulty eating or sleeping
  • Risky behavior used to “tempt fate” with dangerous or life-threatening choices
  • Loss of interest in things once cared about
  • Seeming hopeless or worthless
  • Changing a will or putting affairs in order
  • Sudden chance in emotion from happy to incredibly sad or withdrawn
  • Discussion of suicide
  • Visiting loved ones or calling to say goodbye

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20% and 50% of people who commit suicide have attempted it before.

If you or a loved one believe someone may be severely depressed or contemplating suicide, don’t be afraid to offer help or assistance.

  • Take them seriously – don’t disregard thoughts, feelings or expressions of suicidal depression
  • Don’t leave them alone
  • Remove possibly lethal outlets like drugs, alcohol or firearms
  • Call the emergency room or escort them to a hospital, counseling service, such as Horizon Health Services, or a psychiatrist.
  • Utilize the Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • In an emergency don’t hesitate to call 911
  • Or contact Crisis Services in your area:
    • Erie County: 716.834.3131 (Crisis Services of Erie County)
    • Niagara County: 716.285.3515 (Niagara County Crisis Hotline)
    • Genesee County: 585.343.1212 (Regional Action Phone – RAP)

If it is not an emergency and you live in the Western New York area, you can utilize Horizon Health Services’ Substance abuse and mental health counseling by calling 716-831-1800.

Remember, the first line of defense for suicide prevention is the awareness of symptoms and warning signs. Be open and willing to talk with family members, friends and medical professionals. Your empathy and compassion may be the thing to prevent suicide.

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