The Prevention of Suicide

It’s alarming to know that there were 38,364 suicides in 2010 in the U.S. according to the Center of Disease Control. Since the passing of one my favorite actors and comedians, Robin Williams, I have been thinking a lot of about the prevention of suicide. Can suicide be prevented? If so, what is the most effective way to help the hurting person?

One of the most common billboards I see when traveling the highways between Tulsa, OK and DFW, TX is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. It’s a free 1-800 number that leaves me wondering if it has any effect on suicidal people. I can’t help but ask my husband, “Do you think people who really, truly want to kill themselves call that number?” I can’t imagine that a stranger picking up the phone would talk me out of any decision that I had already made.  This question led me on a quest for understanding.

It was challenging to find studies that were focusing on if the suicide hotlines work. According to it’s difficult to know how many people are being helped. There are definite stories that end in tragedy and others in at least momentary triumph. One thing that is agreed upon in the studies is people who are in distress and seriously contemplating suicide do call. Most of these callers just want somebody to talk to, somebody to listen.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a very thorough website. It lists out the warning signs for those who are at risk for suicide. It gives treatment options such as medications and psychotherapies. This website also gives way for people to become an advocate and help change the stigma on some of the root causes of suicides like depression and other mental illness.

The reasons people contemplate suicide varies greatly. Prevention depends upon understanding the underlying cause and getting treatment as early as possible. I feel one way we, as a society, can help people who suffer is to stop being judgmental when it comes to depression, mental illness, and addictions. We should be more understanding of those who suffer from these conditions. I urge everyone to click on the links and learn the warning signs and know what to do. You may be able to help save a life!


4 thoughts on “The Prevention of Suicide

  1. The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression.

    Depression is a real thing.
    The following are a list of quotes from various websites where you can find more information about depression:

    According to depression statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 9 percent of adult Americans have feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and/or guilt that generate a diagnosis of depression

    Symptoms of Depression:
    Although depression may occur only one time during your life, usually people have multiple episodes of depression. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:
    • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
    • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
    • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
    • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
    • Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
    • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
    • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
    • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility
    • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
    • Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
    • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
    For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right. Other people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

    Causes of Depression:
    It’s not known exactly what causes depression. As with many mental disorders, a variety of factors may be involved, such as:
    • Biological differences. People with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain, but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
    • Brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring brain chemicals that likely play a role in depression. When these chemicals are out of balance, it may be associated with depressive symptoms.
    • Hormones. Changes in the body’s balance of hormones may be involved in causing or triggering depression. Hormone changes can result from thyroid problems, menopause or a number of other conditions.
    • Inherited traits. Depression is more common in people whose biological (blood) relatives also have this condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.
    • Life events. Traumatic events such as the death or loss of a loved one, financial problems, high stress, or childhood trauma can trigger depression in some people.

    Treatments for Depression:
    Numerous depression treatments are available. Medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) are very effective for most people.

    10 Natural Depression Treatments:
    1) Get in a routine, 2) set goals, 3) exercise, 4) eat healthy, 5) get enough sleep, 6) take on responsibilities, 7) take on negative thoughts, 8) check with your doctor before trying supplements, 9) try something new, and 10) try to have fun.

    Johns Hopkins research suggests meditation may reduce symptoms
    “But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants.” These patients did not typically have full-blown anxiety or depression.
    Goyal and his colleagues found that so-called “mindfulness meditation” — a form of Buddhist self-awareness designed to focus precise, nonjudgmental attention to the moment at hand — also showed promise in alleviating some pain symptoms as well as stress.

    What Is Mindfulness?
    Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
    Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
    Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years, in part through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since that time, thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and MBSR in particular, inspiring countless programs to adapt the MBSR model for schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and beyond.

    I believe that depression is a real thing because it is something that I personally struggle with. Many people view depression as a weakness or an excuse to take medications. It is a very difficult subject to discuss without excessive judgment. This needs to change. To change these views and criticisms we need to better understand depression and see that many people struggle and function with depression in their lives. I hope to bring better awareness and understanding to the subject. I also included meditation and mind training in this piece because it has helped me tremendously. An understanding of our own thought processes and getting out of the self-criticism is vitally important in living a mentally healthy life. Thankfulness and giving to others are other aspects in my life that bring me perspective and joy.

  2. #stigmasucks

    On the non-profit website, people discuss changing the stigma of mental illness. Stigma is the negative, often untrue, connections made by society to another sector of the population. The website talks about changing stigma begins with having conversations about mental illness and the people it affects. This led me to consider my own contributions to our society’s stigma and how I can help change that starting with me.
    Here is my story:
    My mom was diagnosed with a form of mental illness commonly known as depression. Her diagnosis came when I was in my early twenties, and I remember thinking, “What does she have to be sad about?” What I didn’t realize was depression wasn’t just sadness alone. It’s like being trapped in a tunnel with a feeling of hopelessness and despair. For my mom it was a journey that eventually ended her life.
    She was prescribed different types of medication, many of which were highly addicting. This was an issue since my mom had been a recovering addict for 15 years at this point. As a family, we coped silently thinking that was the best way. We continued to shine outwardly with our fun, bright moments…continuously sharing our highlight reels on Facebook. What we didn’t realize was mom was suffering even more quietly, not sharing her true pain and despair, with any of us. We weren’t having conversations with each other, and we allowed family stigma, how the mental illness reflected on our family, to block us from getting real help.
    My mom took the medicine to the point of complete numbness. She became a stranger to us when she was in this state. After years of only glimpses of my “real” mom, one night she had an overdose of her prescription medications that shocked the entire family. We’re all left wondering how it could have been different. Would my mom still be with us if we had started truthful conversation that had the potential to change the family stigma?
    Of course, all the “what ifs” in the world will not bring my mom back, but I can change what the future holds for me and my children. I am choosing openness, honesty and conversation. Click on the link to here the beginning of what I have to say.

  3. You forgot to say: you are awesome, compasionate, intelligent, and an amazingly brave woman!!!

    Very sorry about your mom… I’m so glad to know someone as amazing as you. Thank you for being so brave and honest about depression. This is real life and stress is not easy.

    I think you are fantastic!

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