Suicide rates have been increasing in this country for years. Currently, 1 American dies by suicide every 11 minutes. Kansas has had a 45% increase in suicides during the past 20 years and ranks 13th in the nation for suicide rate. It is the 9th leading cause of death in Kansas for all ages and the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10 to 44.
Many more people live a reduced quality of life due to suicidal thoughts. In 2016, 9.87 million Americans had serious thoughts about suicide. Suicide effects the community as a whole and those who know a person who committed suicide. Family and friends of someone who died by suicide are more likely to commit suicide themselves.
Although these numbers are scary, there is hope. Suicide is largely preventable and treatment has been shown to be effective in helping those who experience suicidal thoughts. We, as a community, can help by learning to identify the warning signs and help people get the treatment they need.
The first step in preventing suicide is learning to identify the warning signs. A person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts may talk about wanting to die or being a burden to others. They may report feeling empty, hopeless, numb, trapped or being in unbearable pain. They may act anxious or agitated, withdraw from friends and family, change their eating or sleeping habits, display extreme mood swings or take risks that could lead to death. Other signs that indicate suicidal thoughts include giving away prized possessions and saying goodbye to family and friends. Knowing these signs will make it easier to identify someone who is in crisis.
Help Them Get Treatment
If you recognize the warning signs in someone, there are several things you can do to help them get treatment. First, ask the person directly if they are thinking about suicide. It can be an uncomfortable question to ask, but it can provide important information. Studies show that asking about suicide does not increase thoughts of suicide or the likelihood that someone will commit suicide. Listen nonjudgmentally to the response. Keep the person safe by removing access to highly lethal items or places if possible. Do not leave the person alone. Help them to immediately get connected to crisis help.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the 24-hour Valeo Crisis Line at 785-234-3300 to get immediate help. You can also walk in to the Valeo Crisis Center at 400 SW Oakley. It is open 24 hours every day and no appointment is necessary.
Although suicide is complex with many factors involved, there are things everyone can do to help decrease suicide. Recognizing the warning signs and knowing how to take action can have a profound impact on those experiencing suicidal thoughts. Talking openly about mental health and suicidal thoughts can help to remove stigma and increase education. Then individuals who need help will be more likely to get it. Once connected with the right support, there are treatments that have been shown to be effective in helping individuals with suicidal thoughts. If we work together as a community, we can save lives and create a stronger and more resilient community.
Written by Courtney Rooks, Executive and Development Specialist, Valeo Behavioral Health Care