Suicide: What You Should Know

September 25, 2018

The issue of suicide is a very difficult and concerning topic to address and, unfortunately, it is on the rise.  In fact, a recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows suicide rates have increased more than 30 percent in half of the states since 1999.  Data from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention further underscores the importance and urgency of raising awareness of suicide since suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. with nearly 45,000 Americans taking their own lives each year.

Recent suicide deaths of prominent fashion designer, Kate Spade, and celebrated chef and author, Anthony Bourdain, have exposed the critical fact that suicide does not discriminate and have called attention on the role that mental illness plays in suicide.  Although persons with known mental health conditions are more likely than those without such conditions to take their own lives, a range of factors can contribute to suicide.

Suicide is preventable.  Therefore, it is critically important to be proactive about recognizing the warning signs of someone who may be contemplating suicide and identifying friends and loved ones who may be at risk.  According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), the most recognizable signs of potential suicide are:

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, which can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like, "I wish I wasn't here" but become more bold and dangerous;
  • Increased alcohol and drug use;
  • Aggressive behavior;
  • Social withdrawal from friends, loved ones, and the community;
  • Dramatic mood swings;
  • Talking, writing, or thinking about death; and
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

While risk factors can vary, there are some commonalities among suicide victims, including:

  • Family history of suicide;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Access to firearms;
  • Serious or chronic medical illness;
  • Gender (more women attempt suicide than men, but men are four times more likely to die from their attempt);
  • History of trauma or abuse;
  • Prolonged stress;
  • Isolation;
  • Age (those younger than 24 years old and older than 65 years old are at higher risk);
  • Recent tragedy or loss;
  • Agitation; and
  • Sleep deprivation

Mental health providers at Colorado Plains Medical Center note that it's okay to seek help if someone is struggling with depression, has any other form of mental illness, or displays any of these signs and risk factors.  There are behavioral health providers who can help whenever is needed.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) offers free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Colorado Plains Medical Center provides a range of behavioral health support services, including an intensive outpatient therapy program, Healthier You, designed to treat adults age 55 and older who may be experiencing anxiety, depression, complicated grief, or another life transition that interferes with their daily functioning.  This wellness group incorporates a variety of treatment modalities, such as individual, group, and family therapies; coping skills training; medication monitoring; and educational topics, on a daily basis and is structured to meet the individual treatment needs of each person enrolled in the program.

For the Healthier You program admission criteria or a free, confidential assessment, call (970) 542-4364.