By: Dr. Erin Amato | Sep 23, 2016
In 2015 over 9.3 million American adults had “reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year.”1 This accounts for nearly 4% of adult Americans. In addition, over 40,000 Americans took their lives in 2015 alone. That accounts for one suicide every 13 minutes. This makes suicide one of the top ten causes of death for all Americans. Fortunately, due to the unique nature of suicide, it is by far the most preventable cause of death.
This is an issue that pertains to each and every one of us, regardless of race, religion, color, or gender. Whether you are actively suicidal, have suicidal thoughts or ideations, or are a friend, family member, or concerned citizen looking to learn how to help someone struggling with suicidal thoughts or intentions, it is very important to understand the nature of suicide and how we each can prevent one from occurring.4 We would encourage you to first read the section below and determine the group that best applies to you. Are you?
1.) An Actively Suicidal Individual
2.) An Individual Struggling with Suicidal Thoughts or Ideations
3.) A Concerned Friend, Family, or Community Member
An Actively Suicidal Individual
There is a very big difference between someone who has suicidal thoughts and someone who is actively suicidal.4 Being actively suicidal means that there is intent and that there is a plan. If you have plans for suicide, please know that many have been in your place, and are glad they chose to get help. They realize that hope is out there and that a future of wellbeing and purpose exists for each of us. Please move to a safe place by calling 1-800-273-8255.
If you are seriously considering suicide, please call this number immediately or visit your nearest emergency room:
This is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Montana Crisis TEXT Line by texting MT to 741741. Each have trained individuals on staff 24/7 to help you through a crisis.
An Individual Struggling with Suicidal Thoughts or Ideations
If you are not actively suicidal but find yourself hopeless and thinking that it may be easier if you weren’t alive, it’s time to get help. Even if you don’t have a plan or a serious intent, suicidal thoughts are very serious and should be dealt with before they turn deadly. The good news is that there are many proven and effective methods of dealing with suicidal thoughts and the underlying mental illnesses that causes them.
- CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a proven therapy technique with some estimates stating that it can be more effective than anti-depressant medications for treating anxiety and depression6. It works to change the way you think about yourself and the situations you are in, as well as the ways you respond to these thoughts and situations.
- DBT: According to the Linehan Institute, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is “the gold standard treatment for… chronically suicidal individuals.”7 DBT focuses on four core skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.
- Medication Therapies: Medications like SSRI’s (such as Prozac™and Zoloft™) and other antidepressants are often prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. In combination with therapies like CBT, DBT, and conventional talk therapies, these treatments can be highly effective. Call our office if you are not getting full relief from your current medications or are finding the side-effects challenging.
- Advances in Depression Treatments:
TMS and Ketamine
Ketamine and TMS are two depression treatments that have helped many who have not found relief with typical antidepressant medications. We are the only center in our region that offers TMS and Ketamine. To find out more visit us at www.mtpsychiatry.com.
Friends, Family, and Community Members
We each have a responsibility to identify and help someone who has suicidal thoughts or a real plan. If you know of someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, your actions are required. There are many warning signs of suicidal intentions, including expressing a desire to die, having feelings of hopelessness, and “setting one’s affairs in order.”9 If you aren’t sure if an individual is suicidal, ask questions. It is very important not to ask leading questions like “You aren’t going to hurt yourself, are you?” Pose an open, non-judgmental question such as, “should I be concerned that you will hurt yourself?” If you are still unsure if the person is safe, it’s always better to be safe. Call for help and stay with the person until you know they are safe. This may be in their presence or on the phone.
As a psychiatrist, we know the best suicide prevention method is to treat the person’s illness before they become suicidal. If you know someone that is feeling depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, extend a helping hand and have them see a mental health professional immediately. With the proper care, everyone can go on to lead full and productive lives. The first step starts with you. Know what mental illness looks like and do what you can to help those affected by it. No one can solve the problem of mental illness on their own. However, if we become aware of the problem and address it, we can start to solve the problem. Suicide is not a fact of life. It is 100% preventable. If we choose to commit to understanding and require ourselves to be involved, we can stop these terrible tragedies from occurring.
- The Center For Disease Control. Suicide Datasheet. CDC.gov. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide-datasheet-a.PDF. Accessed August 18, 2016.
- SAVE. Suicide Facts. save.org. http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=705D5DF4-055B-F1EC-3F66462866FCB4E6. Accessed August 18, 2016.
- Mental Health America. Suicide. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/suicide Accessed August 17, 2016.
- On the Line. Estimating the Risk of Suicide. suicideline.org. https://www.suicideline.org.au/health-professionals/estimating-the-risk-of-suicide/. Accessed August 18, 2016.
- SPRC. Suicide Risk Assesment. sprc.org. http://www.sprc.org/sites/default/files/PrimerModule4.pdf. Accessed August 18, 2016.
- BBC. Cognitive behavioural therapy “can reduce depression.” BBC Health. December 7, 2012. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-20625639. Accessed August 18, 2016.
- The Linehan Institute. Behavioral tech. behavioraltech.org. http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm. Accessed August 18, 2016.
- Insel T. Director’s Blog: Antidepressants: A complicated picture. nimh.gov. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/2011/antidepressants-a-complicated-picture.shtml. Accessed August 18, 2016.
- SAVE. Symptoms and Danger Signs. Retrieved August 19, 2016, from http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage