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Published on September 13, 2022

You Can Help Prevent Suicide

By: Amy Scott, LCSW, CADC
Owensboro Health EAP & Counseling Service

Trigger warning, this article shares information about suicide.

When my dad died by suicide 18 years ago, it sent a ripple of shock and pain through the lives of everyone who knew him. I know in my family that ripple is still felt today. I share this with you because my father was the last person anyone would have thought would take his own life. Anyone can get to the point of contemplating or attempting suicide. So, it is important for everyone to be knowledgeable about the signs that someone may be in crisis.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It is the 2nd leading cause of death of 15 to 24-year-olds. Kentucky ranks 18th in the nation for its suicide rate. Many people believe that suicide prevention starts with psychiatric professionals. The truth is, the person most likely to prevent someone from attempting suicide is a close friend, family member or co-worker. Many people will show warning signs when they are contemplating suicide. Some examples include: putting their affairs in order, withdrawing from loved ones and favorite activities, mood or behavior changes, buying a gun or stock-piling pills. Some people make statements about feeling hopeless or that others would be better off without them. A person may even make direct statements about wishing they were dead.

What causes people to get to the point of wanting to end their life? According to the QPR Institute, "Suicidal thoughts occur during times of personal crisis, unrelenting stress, depression or when we are confronted with a fear of failure or the specter of unacceptable loss." These thoughts occur more often than people realize because some people don't talk about them because of fear. Fear of judgment, fear others will think they are "crazy," or fear of hospitalization. These thoughts are often a symptom of untreated depression. Suicide becomes their solution for how to handle immense emotional pain. Many people with suicidal thoughts don't truly want to die; they are just in more pain than they can cope with at the time.

How can we help someone who is thinking about suicide? The first step is caring. Many people experiencing these thoughts don't think anyone cares or feel like an emotional burden to others. So, simply saying, "I am worried about you. You seem sad" or "I know you have been through a lot, how can I help" can help a person open up and talk. The QPR Institute teaches people to ask others directly if they are thinking about suicide. "I can tell you have been depressed. Are you thinking about killing yourself?" If someone says yes, it is important to get them to a therapist or a doctor for an assessment as soon as possible.

The second step is just listening. Don't minimize the person's feelings. Don't tell them they shouldn't think like that. Don't offer solutions. Just listen. If the person says they have been thinking about suicide as a solution, they need professional help. Let them know that you care about them and want them to live, so you will help them get help. Offer to help them schedule with a therapist or get an appointment with their doctor. If they are reluctant and you truly feel like they are in danger, enlist the help of a family member or friend. You can always call your local crisis line or the police for assistance. They are trained to help get a suicidal person the help they need.

If you want to know more about suicide prevention, check out the resources listed below or get trained in a suicide prevention program like QPR (Question; Persuade; Refer) or SOS (Signs of Suicide). If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide and you need counseling or additional resources, call or text the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.

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About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.