A number of statistics were touched upon during the presentation on suicidal ideation and behavior in substance abuse treatment and prevention. The presentation took place at SkyRidge Medical Center last week and was hosted by Cleveland’s GRAAB Coalition (Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors) and Pine Ridge Center.
Brown said raising the issue of suicide will not place suicidal thoughts in a person’s head. He informed the audience that asking could in fact save lives.
“There are many myths about suicide. The first is that no one can stop a suicide. Suicides are not inevitable,” Brown said. “The second is that a person will become angry and be more likely than ever to commit suicide. The third is only experts can prevent suicide. This is false.”
There are many warning signs a person might be suicidal, including outright threats, previous suicide attempts, alcohol and drug abuse, statements revealing a desire to die, sudden changes in behavior, prolonged depression, making final arrangements, giving away prized possessions, withdrawal or isolation from friends, taking unnecessary risks, purchasing guns or stockpiling pills.
According to a “Suicide Quick Reference Assessment,” sheet Brown distributed, there are several questions to ask about at-risk individuals. First, determine whether or not the person in question is suicidal. If so, then determine if the person has a plan and method. If the answer to any of these questions is, ‘Yes,’ then immediate contact should be made with either a suicide prevention professional or by calling national suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
“Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for ages 10-24 and the second-leading cause for ages 25-34,” Brown shared. “In America, there is a suicide every 14 minutes. When I first began as a crisis counselor 25 years ago, the time was 18 minutes.”
The top method for committing suicide in Tennessee is using a firearm. According to Brown, teenagers that are in a home with a firearm are 10 times more likely to commit suicide.
“I am definitely not anti-gun,” Brown explained. “Although, it is important to secure your weapons. Many kids who die by firearms use a gun found in the home.”
A Tennessee youth risk behavior survey taken by high school students 9-12 grade in 2011 revealed high numbers of suicide ideation. The results showed 1 out of 7 teenagers consider suicide and 1 in 9 makes plans for suicide. Of those who make a plan, 1 out of 14 makes an attempt and 1 out of 45 who makes an attempt requires medical attention.
Further studies revealed teenagers who consume the illegal drug ecstasy have about three times more risk of suicidal ideation — the formation of ideas or concepts. In addition, teenagers who struggle with their sexuality (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) are four times more likely to consider suicide.
“Suicide is not only an issue for teenagers and adults,” Brown warned. “Children as young as 5 can have suicidal thoughts. They are unable to explain what they are thinking, but that does not stop them from how they are feeling.”
As a part of his presentation, Brown asked the audience to fill out an “Attitudes Inventory” worksheet. Discussed were the common belief that people who talk about suicide just want attention (disagreed); the audience’s comfort level discussing suicide issues with people (mixed response); the belief most people who try to kill themselves really want to die (disagreed); and the belief suicide is a sin (mixed response).
“I would encourage you to try and save a life. People learning more about suicide prevention and [receiving] training is how we are going to stop the suicide statistics,” Brown said. “Do not hesitate to get involved since almost all efforts to persuade someone to live instead of committing suicide will be met with agreement and relief.”
For more information on suicide prevention and suicide statistics for Tennessee, visit tspn.org. A national suicide prevention lifeline is available for people with thoughts of suicide and those hoping to prevent others from committing suicide. That number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
(The statistic at the beginning of this article stated a young person between the ages of 10 and 24 is lost to suicide every two hours. If true, then by the time this article runs, there will have been more than 100 suicides by people that age in America since the suicide prevention seminar.)