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~ Asseessing the Risk for Suicide ~

Background Information
The numbers of people choosing to take their own lives is increasing. By some estimates a person tries to take their life every 39 seconds. Suicide is not limited to a single age group, racial group, or socioeconomic class.
Currently, among the 15- to 19-year olds, suicide is the second leading cause of death (following accidents). The suicide rate has tripled over the last 30 years in this age group. The elderly (often following the death of their spouse, or favorite pet) are another large group very much at risk.

There are conflicting reports as to whether the suicide rate increases during the holiday, or afterwards. Whether or not there is an increased incidence of suicide, we know there is an increased incidence of depression, mental health visits and the blues, both during the holiday and up to three weeks after the holidays.

The evidence is overwhelming, those who talk about suicide may truly be considering it. Anyone having suicidal thoughts should seek immediate care, either through their own doctor or through the nearest hospital emergency department. Take it seriously! Seek Professional advice immediately. Talk to a Counselor, a Teacher, a Physician.

The important part is for those suffering from depression, friends and family to be able to recognize the warning signs and get help, or help the person exhibiting the signs to get help!

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Talk of death, suicide, or harming oneself
  • Chronic panic or anxiety
  • Constant insomnia
  • Altered personality or appearance
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Dropping grades (for those still in school)
  • Giving away treasured possessions
  • Becoming more isolated - pulling away from normal social activities
  • Talk of depression, life is not worth living
Learn to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Do you, or anyone you know have any of the following signs?
  • Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
  • Dissatisfaction with life
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Loss of energy
  • Feeling useless or hopeless
  • Irritability
  • Great concern with health problems
  • Sadness or crying
  • Worry and/or self-criticism
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions
  • Loss of appetite and weight
By educating the general public to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, and warning signs of suicide, then those afflicted with depression, those contemplating suicide may be able to get professional help and treatment sooner. The depressed will be able to start working to shift their views and realize that there are things worth living for, so instead of wanting to choose death they want to choose life.

Listening to the "Cry for Help"
There have been several instances when I thought friends or colleagues were in trouble where what they were telling me sounded like a strong "Cry for Help," whether a message on an answering machine, a comment made in passing, or a letter written out of depression and sent. On these occasions I have made several frantic phone calls to try and find them, make sure they were all right. I usually was not able to reach the person specifically, but contacted someone who was also alerted and then able to get in touch with the person. Fortunately, in each of these instances, the outcome has been a good one. Colleagues and friends asked me if I thought I was over reacting. "Didn't I know they weren't going to really do themselves any harm?" I will continue to "over react" rather than possibly let a friend down.

The stakes are too high to make that kind of mistake. I have treated many overdose cases in the emergency department, and intensive care unit, pumping stomachs after a drug overdose, treating with 17 doses of Tylenol antidote, or monitoring for cardiac arrhythmias after barbiturate overdoses. I was left wondering was their "Cry for help" noticed. Also you never know for sure what was going through that person's head. You never know that you might be the only person who hears their "Cry for Help." Perhaps the compassion, knowing that someone cares is enough to convince them that live is worth living.

Believe that life is worth living
and your belief will help create the fact.

William James

See the Emergency 911 Page for links to immediate resources
if you are feeling helpless, hopeless, overwhelmingly depressed, or suicidal.

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Last update Sept. 11, 2002