Monday, October 02, 2023

Local officials discuss suicide prevention methods

The Western News | September 23, 2022 7:00 AM

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and there are several services available for people in need and others being considered by leaders and officials in Lincoln County.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for youth ages 15-19.

At the Lincoln County Commissioners Sept. 14 meeting, Public Health Manager Jennifer McCully said there have been three teen suicide attempts in the last six weeks in the county.

McCully also talked about the Teen Mental Health First Aid Program. It is designed to train adults and kids how to recognize signs of suicide and how and what to do to help.

“Kids talk to kids, and this is an area we are lacking,” McCully said.

The program is for suicide prevention training for up to 16 people, adult and youth.

Libby Public Schools Superintendent Ron Goodman said adding curriculum in schools is difficult and has to be approved by the board, but he is concerned on the rate of suicide across the country.

“We need to make some changes and start looking at something proactive and this program is worth looking at,” Goodman said.

Commissioner Josh Letcher said it’s important to teach kids to sympathize, but also to create teen leaders. He expressed concern about some parents lack of involvement in their children’s lives.

McCully said she would work on getting more information on partners and funding.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, nearly half of adolescents (ages 13-18) live with a mental disorder and 22% of them experience a severe impairment.

In addition to teen suicide, many studies indicate suicide is one of the leading causes of death for men and women of all ages, but many older adults are particularly vulnerable to it.

According to the National Council on Aging, older adults comprise just 12% of the population, they make up approximately 18% of suicides.

Many factors contribute to older adults being vulnerable to the risk of suicide, including grief and loss of loved ones, chronic illness, isolation, and loss of independence.

The Council on Aging suggests one of the most important things people can do is to know the warning signs:

  • Loss of interest in things or activities that are usually found enjoyable;
  • Cutting back social interaction, self-care, and grooming;
  • Breaking medical regimens (such as going off diets and prescriptions);
  • Experiencing or expecting a significant personal loss (spouse or other);
  • Feeling hopeless and/or worthless;
  • Putting affairs in order, giving things away, or making changes in wills;
  • Stock-piling medication or obtaining other lethal means;

Other clues include a preoccupation with death or a lack of concern about personal safety. Remarks such as "This is the last time that you'll see me" or “I won't be needing any more appointments" should raise concerns. The most significant indicator is an expression of suicidal intent.

Knowing the warning signs helps people know when to intervene and has the potential to save the lives of those you love.

Cabinet Peaks Medical Center offers services for people, particularly 65 years of age and older.

They offer the following tips:

  • Asking “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner can open the door for effective dialogue about their emotional pain and can allow everyone involved to see what next steps need to be taken.
  • Being there for someone could mean physically being present, talking on the phone, through video chat, or any other means of showing support. It is very important that you do not commit to things you are not willing or able to accomplish and ensure that the ways you say you will provide support happen.
  • If you have determined your loved one is thinking about suicide, it is then important to establish immediate safety. This can be done by asking questions like, “Have you tried to do anything to harm yourself?” “Do you have a specific, detailed plan? If so, what are the timing and their access to the method? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you determine the level of danger the person is in. For example, the more specific steps they have in place for their plan, the higher their severity of risk is.
  • Connect them to ongoing supports like the 988 Lifeline or text “HELP” to the Crisis Text Line’s number 741741. Help them explore their options. Have they seen a mental health professional in the past? If so, could they see them again? What mental health resources are available in your community? Do they have a safety plan in place?

After you have connected them to the immediate support they need, it’s important to follow up to see how they are doing. Following up allows them to ask for more help if needed and gives you an opportunity to do anything you said you would do but haven’t gotten the chance to do yet.
The hospital has a program and anyone can make a referral, including primary care, specialists, family members, friends, or community groups.

To do so, call 406-283-6890.