September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Suicide leaves a lot of hurt, sadness, guilt and confusion in its wake. The tragic end of one life is the beginning of an emotional tornado that can be difficult to weather for the many loved ones left behind.
“How did I not see the signs?” “What could I have done?” are questions with no answers.
While suicide can be a dark and difficult subject to talk about, shining a light on it can help save a life.
Suicide by the numbers
Nearly 43,000 Americans die by suicide each year, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the third leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 24.
Mental illness plays an overwhelming role in most suicides, with over 90 percent of people who die by suicide being affected by a mental illness at the time of their death. The most common of those is depression.
Far too often, individuals suffering with depression have not sought or received treatment for their illness. In fact, untreated depression is the No. 1 cause for suicide.
A recent study published in the journal JAMA International Medicine found that fewer than one-third of American adults who screen positive for depression are actually treated for it.
The warning signs
“Suicide is complicated,” said Bradley Kocian, M.D., Norton Community Medical Associates – LaGrange. “Recognizing the symptoms of depression early can often be the first line of defense in preventing suicide.”
Know the signs of depression, and don’t be ashamed to get help — whether that help is for yourself or someone you are concerned about.
Signs of depression could include:
- Decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping, including sleeping too much or insomnia
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, frustration
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Increased anxiety
- Overeating or loss of appetite
“Not all people who are depressed will attempt or commit suicide. But, many people affected with depression do not seek or receive treatment for their mental illness, which can escalate to thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts,” Dr. Kocian said.
The warning signs for suicide can often mimic those of depression with potentially increased severity. Get yourself or your loved one immediate help if you see any of these symptoms:
- Threats or comments about killing themselves
- Increased substance use
- Withdrawal from friends, family, society
- Uncontrolled anger, rage
- Reckless behaviors or engaging in risky activities
- Dramatic mood swings
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, speak up and seek out help.
- Talk with your doctor: Your primary care provider can screen you for depression and other mental illnesses should you have any of the listed symptoms. A PCP can then refer you to a physician that specializes in mental illnesses.
- Reach out to your support system: Don’t hide from your family and friends. Connect with your loved ones and talk about your feelings. A solid support system can act as a safety net as you explore other treatment options. Not comfortable opening up to them? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK/8255, where you can remain anonymous.
- Learn more about mental illness and suicide: Eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide through education and awareness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are great resources to educate yourself and your loved ones on mental illness and suicide.
Dark days can be illuminated by the light of hope. Give yourself or a loved one hope by sharing the message of how to prevent suicide.
Ask your primary care provider to screen you for depression or other mental illnesses during your next annual wellness exam.
Need a primary care provider? We can help you find one. Call (502) 629-1234.