Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and it is the second leading cause of death in young people ages 10-24. The Gallia Citizen’s for Prevention and Recovery Suicide Prevention Committee is participating in the #BeThe1To campaign this year to spread awareness. The message is that each person can be the one to ask how someone is doing, to be the one to keep them safe, to be the one to be there for them, to be the one to help them connect, and to be the one to follow up to help make sure they continue to improve. All community members can help prevent suicide, which is the most preventable kind of death. September is Suicide Awareness Prevention Month and World Suicide Prevention day is September 10th.
Appalachian counties in Ohio are currently experiencing some of the highest rates of suicide in the state. Some blame financial strains, the drug epidemic, or other challenges that Appalachians face. One thing is certain: the common theme for people thinking about suicide is a sense of hopelessness. Many people experience disruptions in their mental health leading to hopelessness at some point in their lives. This can be due to relationship problems, experiencing loss, changes in phase of life, or mental illness, to name a few. One way to help the cause of suicide prevention is by reducing stigma. Stigma is a negative connotation attached to someone, often for something they have no control over. The way we talk about mental health as a society can discourage or encourage others when they need professional services.
One way to reduce stigma, and encourage someone to get help is to avoid using words like “crazy” or other demeaning terms to describe a mental health problem. Stigma can also be reduced by an individual being supportive when someone reaches out for help, rather than shaming them or telling them they should just be able to figure it out. We can combat stigma by speaking openly about mental health, showing compassion, educating ourselves and others, and speaking up when we hear others participating in stigmatizing language or behavior. By showing support and encouraging treatment, someone is more likely to get the help they need, which can lead to avoiding a suicide attempt.
There are warning signs for suicide that anyone can watch for, and there are ways to reach out when you notice someone may be having suicidal thoughts. Warning signs may include the person stating they want to die or looking for ways to die; talking about being stuck or having unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to loved ones; putting affairs in order; stockpiling the means to harm oneself; giving away prized possessions; relapse from addiction recovery; using more alcohol or drugs than they usually do; sudden mood changes; becoming anxious, agitated or reckless; a change in sleep patterns; becoming isolated; and experiencing rage or wanting revenge.
Some groups are more at risk for suicide, such as senior citizens, veterans, active service members, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Just because you see a warning sign or risk factor does not necessarily mean that a person is suicidal, but it’s worth asking to find out. And the more warning signs there are, the more at risk they are. Some people are afraid to ask if their loved one is suicidal because they are afraid it will plant an idea in their head, but research shows that an individual is not more likely to die by suicide if someone has asked them about it. Actually, most people feel a sense of relief and their anxiety is decreased after someone asks them if they are suicidal. It shows them that someone cares.
Recently many in our community have had the opportunity to learn how to help prevent suicide through QPR Gatekeeper trainings. QPR is a method that involves learning how to ask questions, how to persuade others to get help, and how to refer to the appropriate source of help. This training is available to any organization that would like its members to learn how to become gatekeepers in our community, protecting others from the risk of suicide. Please call 740-446-4612 extension 1258 if you would like to learn more about scheduling a training.
Ask your struggling friends if they’re ok. Ask your strong friends if they’re ok. Offer hope in any form. If you’re not ok, reach out for support. For more information, please visit the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation at ohiospf.org. If you need assistance now, text “4Hope” to 741741, or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Help and hope are available.
Amy Sisson is a Victim Services representative for the Gallia County Prosecutor’s Office. She wrote this on behalf of the Gallia Citizen’s for Prevention and Recovery, a coalition of volunteers, agencies and organizations working together across the community to address the prevention of addiction, violence, and suicide in Gallia County. Gallia CPR meets at noon on the second Monday of each month at Holzer Health Systems on Jackson Pike and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.