Suicide prevention discussed at library class

Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Valerie Yarmouth, therapist at Senior Life Solutions at Mercy Cassville, shares a Power Point presentation at the Cassville Branch Library about suicide facts and tips on how to help a friend or family member who may be contemplating suicide. Statistics show that suicide rates are climbing. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, 41,149 persons took their own lives, and more people now die from suicide than in car accidents. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

More die from suicide now than in car accidents

In 2013, the New York Times reported that more lives now end in suicide in the U.S. than in motor vehicle accidents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2013, 41,149 persons committed suicide. These statistics and do not include attempts only. The top three methods used are: firearms, suffocation or poisoning.

And, suicide rates are climbing.

In 2014, 42,773 people took their lives, one every 12.3 minutes in the U.S.

"We have a lot of cutting with teenagers," said Valerie Yarmouth, therapist at Mercy Cassville for Senior Life Solutions. "People with a diagnosis of borderline personality or depression will attempt suicide almost 20 times more often than those who don't."

But, there are some things concerned friends and family members can do to reach out to those who may be contemplating suicide and see no other way out.

Talking about ways to kill themselves is a warning sign that a person may be planning to commit suicide. Or, not acting like themselves, having a fatalistic viewpoint, no hope whatsoever, feeling that they are a burden, or engaging in risky behaviors. They may also be involved in substance abuse, not taking prescribed prescriptions, their energy levels may have changed, or they may express that they feel like they are disappointment to their families.

They can also appear depressed, anxious, angry or easily irritable.

"Because they don't care about themselves, or you, people are extremely dangerous when in this state," Yarmouth said.

So, approaching someone should be done very cautiously.

"Depression and bipolar disorder runs in families," Yarmouth said. "Having close family members that have committed suicide puts family members at four times the risk. So, you should pay more attention to them [if they are showing warning signs]. Ask the them to see a therapist they like to assess the situation, a pastor, or someone they feel connected with. I think it's important to play it safe."

Yarmouth said people should not be worried about asking someone directly if they are considering suicide, or be concerned asking will put the thought in their head.

"If you suspect it, tell them you are worried about them, and ask if they have a plan in mind," she said.

The important thing is to speak up, show sympathy and express concern.

"You could say something like, 'I've noticed a difference in you lately; I wanted to check in with you; you haven't seemed like yourself lately: I care and want to help. Are you interested in getting help? Would you like me to call a hotline [or therapist] with you?'

"Expressing concern is always the right thing to do. It is also important to avoid conflicted statements and judgments like, 'You have so much to live for; Your death will hurt your family; Look on the bright side.' Don't make them feel like they have to justify their feelings. And don't blame yourself. Say, 'I'm here for you, we can figure something out.'"

Thereafter, follow up on treatment and keep a close eye on the person.

"Make sure medications are taken if prescribed," Yarmouth said. "Now, injections can be subscribed if you think they're not taking [medications]. Some will tell you they're taking them when they're not. Make a safety plan for when they start feeling bad, and make it easily visible, such as putting it on their fridge, and the caregiver's or friend's fridge, too.

"Don't make vague statements of assistance like, 'Call me if you need anything.' Instead, be proactive in offering assistance. Take them to the doctor. Go and find them. Check on them."

Other helpful actions include encouraging them to get sunlight, exercise, light therapy and eat healthy.

Yarmouth said just because someone does not take his or her life does not mean the person will not think about it or try again. Therefore, it is crucial that friends and family remain vigilant.

"About one-third try to commit suicide try again in one year, and about 10 percent of those who threaten it will take their lives eventually," Yarmouth said. "Continue offering support over the long haul. It's ideal if they have at least three support people they can count on."

Ultimately, friends and family members should not blame themselves, but focus on offering assistance.

"How they respond is not in our control," Yarmouth said. "You can only do what you can do. When someone is on a path of self-destruction, there's nothing you can do."

And, finally, Yarmouth said to remember that even small acts can make 
a difference.

"Just [physically] being there is important," Yarmouth said. "Even if you're there and just have your arm around them, that is highly supportive."

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