Knowing the signs of depression and suicide can save a life
Monday, December 19, 2011
• Clark County Mental Health Crisis Line: (360) 696-9560; (800) 626-8137 or TDD (877) 468-0318
• Cowlitz Co. Crisis Line: (800) 803-8833
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)
(Veterans help Line – press 1)
• The Trevor Project – LGBT support & hotline: (866) 488-7386
As the end of the calendar year approaches, data, statistics and lists begin to appear. Knowing the most downloaded video or this year’s charitable giving level vs. last year can be entertaining. Here’s is a statistic that most folks don’t consider: One out of ten youth attempted suicide last year; three out of ten, if the youth was gay, lesbian or bisexual and five out of ten, if they were transgendered.
An average of two youths (10 to 24 years old) die by suicide each week in Washington. Suicides outnumber homicides. According to the Healthy Youth Survey young people are experiencing depression but not getting the help they need.
Knowing the signs of depression and suicide can save a life. For young people, depression can look different than in adults. Irritability, anger, problems with authority, indecision, poor self-esteem all indicate that a child may be experiencing depression. Changes in eating, sleeping or sexual patterns are also something to look into. If a behavior is new and it lasts more than 2 weeks, it could be depression and should not be ignored.
Depression is a medical condition that requires medical intervention. Counseling and medicine are often the standard treatment. Exercise can also be an excellent support for people getting treatment for depression.
Not all depressed youth are suicidal, but it’s a good indicator of trouble. How do we know if a person is thinking about suicide? At any given time, 6% of the population is thinking of suicide. Of those people, 80% give off warning signs. The problem is we don’t recognize them as such until it’s too late.
Signs or symptoms of suicide include: talking about suicide; being preoccupied with death; giving away possessions; increased drug and/or alcohol usage or becoming withdrawn. Sometimes people will say things like “You’ll all be better off without me” or “Nothing really matters anymore.” “Things will all be over soon”. Go with your gut on this one.
If you suspect suicide, explore those suspicions. Try to connect with the person. Let them know they are not alone and that you are willing to help.
The only way to know for sure, however, is to ask directly and clearly. Here are some ways to ask
• “Are you thinking about suicide?”
• “Are you so overwhelmed that you want to kill yourself”
• “Sometimes when people experience a loss like yours, they think about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?”
Don’t worry about planting the idea, the literature tells us that asking about suicide will not give them the idea. Rather, asking about suicide, directly and clearly, can save a life. It gives a person the opportunity to talk about their thinking and get perspective and help.
The only thing scarier than asking about suicide, is hearing the answer! Not to worry. The goal is to connect the youth with resources and help in their community, not solve all their problems. Once a person acknowledges they are thinking of suicide, stay with them until they are connected to resources for help. Ask the person who they would like to talk with. Doctors, pastors, coaches, counselors, advisors can all be resources. Crisis lines provide immediate professional support and can help connect people to other resources.
In Clark County, our crisis line number is (360) 696-9560 or (800)-626-8137 TDD (877)468-0318. The national suicide prevention hotline is (800) 273-TALK (8255) and the LGBT hotline is (866) 488-7386.
The point is that suicide can be prevented. Knowing the signs and asking about suicide can save a life. For a free training on Suicide Awareness, Understanding Adolescent Stress & Depression or Bullying Safety, Contact Mary Jadwisiak (360) 687-7954. Mary@yspp.org.
Mary Jadwisiak has been a mental health advocate for over 20 years. She has provided training and consulting through her firm, MATAC since 2004. Training topics include mental health recovery, suicide intervention, suicide prevention; leadership for advocates and other related topics. Her clients have included the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, The Office of the Governor of Washington State and Nintendo America. And her public speaking brings honest dialogue and thoughtful insight to her work to improve the lives of people experiencing psychiatric distress.