#mentalhealthexperts explain how to recognize warning signs and support those who need help
By Gracie Blackwell, Texas A&M University College of Medicine
#Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the #UnitedStates, and in 2018, 48,344 Americans died by #suicide. Globally, #suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those 15 to 29 years old, according to the #WorldHealthOrganization.
As part of #SuicideAwarenessWeek, Texas A&M University is promoting #suicideawarenessandprevention. Here, experts discuss the #mentalillness, #suicide warning signs, risk factors and prevention strategies.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
Warning Signs And Symptoms
There are many warning signs that someone is thinking about #suicide. According to the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline, if the following behaviors are new, or have increased, people around that individual need to step in:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Researching ways to kill themselves or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, being trapped or in unbearable pain or being a burden to others
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
“If somebody’s not able to do the things they’re usually able to do — maybe you see them kind of struggling to do schoolwork they’re usually able to handle or struggling to participate in a group project they’re usually able to contribute to, or struggling with a hobby or job you usually see them at — those can be indications that something’s changed,” said Bradley Bogdan, clinical social work supervisor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in the Texas A&M University College of Medicine.
While some people’s warning signs are very obvious and clear to others around them, this can vary from person to person, and some people keep their suicidal thoughts a secret, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There is no single cause of #suicide, according to the #AmericanFoundationforSuicidePrevention. However, there are risk factors that increase a person’s chance of dying by #suicide. Often suicide occurs due to a person’s feelings of hopelessness and pain, especially when health issues, environmental factors or historical factors are involved.
These are the following risk factors for #suicide, according to the #AmericanFoundationforSuicidePrevention:
- #Mentalhealthconditions including #depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, #anxiety disorders, conduct disorders, and personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships
- Serious physical health conditions including pain
- Traumatic brain injury
- Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
- Prolonged #stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
- Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, #financial crisis, other life transitions or loss
- Exposure to another person’s #suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of #suicide
- Previous #suicideattempts
- Family history of #suicide
- Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma
How To Help
According to Bogdan, the biggest way to help someone who is contemplating #suicide is to be open and available.
It is important to let someone contemplating #suicide know that there is help available, whether through family and friends or support services such as therapy or psychiatry. Starting a conversation about #suicide, providing support and directing help to support services are the best ways to help someone who is contemplating #suicide.
“#Suicide is a scary thing to a lot of people and there is not necessarily a great amount of inclusion or talk about it in a lot of people’s day-to-day lives,” Bogdan said. “Being able to sit down and provide support even if somebody isn’t always able to ask for it helps a lot. Make it a regular habit of checking in with them and being able to listen to what they’re going through. Reminding them that there is that solid social contact there and somebody really cares is only going to help people.”
Many people are afraid to talk to someone about their concerns because they’re afraid that they might precipitate a #suicide, but the opposite is true. There is no evidence that asking someone if they are safe or or asking them if they are thinking about #suicide leads to an increased risk of #suicide, according to Bogdan.
“People feel very alone when they’re struggling with #depression and #anxiety, so by you just getting involved with helping them out, you’ve already lifted the burden and they’re going to feel better,” said Sheamus Kelleher, an adjunct assistant professor at the College of Medicine who teaches a course on #mentalillness. “Do not wait too long, because if somebody is really in crisis and especially if they’re suicidal, you have to intervene right away. You can say, ‘I worry about you… are you thinking of ending your life? We love you; we want you to stay around, we want you to get help.’ If somebody is really getting distressed it’s time to ask that question and then at that stage, you need to reach out and get help for them right away.”
There are many resources available at the local and national levels for #suicideprevention. For students at Texas A&M, the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers various types of counseling and support services, from consultations to individual counseling to group counseling.
In the Bryan-College Station area, there are various emergency services available. The #MentalHealthandSubstanceAbuseCrisisHotline (1-888-522-8262) provides #mentalhealth emergency support at all hours of the day to people living in the Brazos Valley. The staff provides support, information, referrals and/or crisis intervention referrals.
For those living in the #UnitedStates outside the Brazos Valley, the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline (1-800-273-8255) is a great resource, Bogdan said. There are options for people who are hard of hearing or who speak a language other than English.
Breaking The #Stigma
Many people are too afraid to speak out about their #mentalhealth problems due to the #stigma surrounding the topic. According to the #NationalAllianceonMentalIllness, the #stigma surrounding #mentalillness can cause people to feel ashamed for something entirely out of their control and keeps them from getting the help they need.
“Just every opportunity you have, talk about #mentalhealth openly and talk about the signs,” Kelleher said. “If you see somebody struggling, talk to them. Don’t just leave them alone and walk away. Instead, be an advocate for those who are struggling.”
The following are additional ways to deal with the #stigma surrounding #mentalillness according to the #NationalAllianceonMentalIllness:
- Educate yourself and others
- Be conscious of language
- Encourage equality between physical and #mentalillness
- Show compassion for those with #mentalillness
- Choose empowerment over shame
- Be honest about treatment
- Let the media know when they’re being stigmatizing
- Don’t harbor self-#stigma