Suicide Prevention: 'Checking In' Can Cut Deaths in Half

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Following-Up With Suicide Survivors

Draper said that post cards, phone calls and personal visits to those who are suffering from depression can help. "Check in with individuals who are trying to hurt themselves and say, 'How are you doing? I'm still thinking of you.'"

He cited research in New Zealand that shows such communications from hospital emergency departments reduced suicide attempts "by 50 percent."

Beyond showing those who are troubled that they are valued, Draper said providing counseling and guidance is critical to recovery -- "teaching them skills to manage their thoughts and feelings."

Availability of lethal weapons can also make the difference between life and death. Substance abuse also "clouds" a person's ability to make good decisions.

Triggers can also include life events like the loss of a child or a scandal that make a person feel "humiliated and shamed," according to Draper.

"A person feels they are never going to recoup their sense of dignity, never hold their head up, or a loss in life that they will never recover from and imagine an unending future that is hopeless," he said.

Often these triggers are combined with other mental health issues or poor emotional management skills. "They often don't know how to seek help and are feeling trapped and alone," he said of those with suicidal thoughts. "They don't reach out."

"There is a difference between a person who is in crisis or has a precipitating event as opposed to people who are chronically depressed," said Draper. "A lot of people exposed to trauma or a history of mental illness or have not learned how to manage their emotions."

Those who are bipolar or have schizophrenia are often predisposed to suicidal thoughts. In those cases, cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with medication have shown to be effective.

"We can get them to a place where they see hope," said Draper. "It can be the difference between rolling a boulder or kicking a pebble up the hill."

For help or to report a suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Center Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The following are signs that might indicate the risk of a suicide attempt:

Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves;

Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun;

Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live;

Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain;

Talking about being a burden to others;

Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs;

Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly;

Sleeping too little or too much;

Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

Displaying extreme mood swings.

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