Suicide prevention day

This week marked the 10th anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day. September 10th was the actual day and I hope some of you were aware and marked the occasion in some way, even if just to pause and think of someone you know or love who may be affected by this tragedy.

Although the date has passed by the time this column appears, I think it's worthwhile to spend my space this week acknowledging the impact suicide has around the world and encouraging all of us to do what we can to help stop what really is preventable.

Worldwide, more than a million people commit suicide each year, meaning someone dies from suicide once every 40 seconds. There are more people lost to suicide each year than to homicide and war combined.

If those numbers don't catch your attention, consider that suicide is the second leading cause of death worldwide for youths aged 15-19 (100,000 adolescents commit suicide each year) and the highest rate of suicide is among those aged 75 and older.

More than 90 percent of people who commit suicide are known to have at least one psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.

Although you may think suicide is unlikely to affect you or your loved ones, you are probably wrong. It is estimated that 20 times as many people attempt suicide as actually succeed.

So what can we really do to help prevent suicide? Is it even something we can prevent?

I believe raising awareness and breaking down stigma surrounding mental illness is a very important part of suicide prevention. When people are not afraid to seek help, they are more likely to reach out.

Another important factor in cases of suicide is substance abuse. A person with an existing mental health condition is much more likely to attempt suicide while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. Substances act as a wildcard in these instances - they lower inhibitions and impair judgment and cognitive faculties, often causing an individual to do something that would not be considered without these effects.

If you suffer from any mental health condition, using substances is extremely dangerous.

Poverty and homelessness are also obvious issues to be addressed in preventing suicide. People need to have hope that both their illness and lives in general will get better. The community can help to deal with this problem by working together to come up with solutions to poverty and homelessness and creating more programs and safe places for people to receive the dignity and safety they deserve.

Better access to mental health and addiction services is another area for suicide prevention. When mentally ill individuals can easily access and afford the support services they need, hopelessness is less likely to set in.

Signs that a loved one may be at risk of suicide include: previous suicide attempt(s); mental health conditions, in particular mood disorders; combined mental health and substance abuse issues; family history of suicide; hopelessness or helplessness; impulsive or aggressive tendencies; barriers to accessing mental health services; loss; stressful life event; access to lethal methods; unwillingness to seek help because of stigma; exposure to suicide (family, peers, significant others); physical, emotional or sexual abuse; legal issues, arrests or incarceration; or sexual identity conflict.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above risk factors, are feeling overwhelming helplessness or despair or are feeling suicidal for any reason, seek help. Talk to someone you trust and enlist the aid of a professional.


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