I had a completely different topic in mind for today- but in light of today’s news about another celebrity life lost to suicide- I felt it incredibly important to talk about the seriousness of major depression and other mental health disorders that contribute to increased suicidal ideation/attempts.
Suicide has been one of the leading causes of death for decades in the United States and is the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals aged 15-34. Specific Data Available through the National Institute of Mental Health This is a terrifying statistic.
Suicidal ideation is significantly more prevalent than any of us may realize and I found the data reported by SAMSHA represented on the NIMH via this link to be very informative:
From a professional standpoint I still know many clinicians that are afraid to actually ask questions relating to suicide or will dance around the question…. or try to make the question less difficult for THEM to say by phrasing the question something like “Do you have thoughts of harming yourself.” I cannot stress enough how this is not an effective way to engage a client. Because harming one’s self is vastly different from actually having a plan to commit suicide. And to be even more honest…many suicidal individuals are rarely ever going to tell you when they actually plan to commit suicide.
I can tell you in my experience in working with the chronically mentally ill, suicidality is something that is very challenging to predict. In my experience, most individuals that actually move forward with an actual suicide attempt rarely tell anyone. They just do it. Which is a terrifying concept to consider and many people ask how they can help.
What I have found to be more effective when trying to have a dialogue about suicide is acknowledging that having suicidal thoughts is common when struggling with depression. Validation goes a long way and connection to treatment such as individual therapy and medication management as early as possible is key. In many cases- inpatient psychiatric hospitalization is necessary to stabilize on medication and protect someone from injuring themselves or someone else. Helping people to feel that what they are experiencing is a symptom of their disease, that help/support is out there, and that their life matters is a much more effective method than asking run of the mill questions off of a checklist from an assessment.
Additionally, another specific strategy that I have also found to be incredibly effective is having a Safety Plan. Many depressed individuals you know- may be having a good day. They’re “fine” they say. They don’t tell you that they are having creeping thoughts in the back of their mind pulling them into the darkness or a depressive episode. However, having a clear cut plan in place of what to do when depressive symptoms become more severe is key.
In Nevada there is an INCREDIBLE Training available to ANYONE. For Free. Called SafeTALK. And several other training options available.
Click this link below for more resources:
What I feel is significantly more effective to break the stigma about mental health and help people connect to treatment is actually talking about depression. Asking about the darkness, hopelessness, worthlessness is challenging for anyone. However, by not dismissing these early signs/symptoms- we can better help those struggling to feel heard and considering getting help.
To tie into this blog, many people find that the support of animal assisted therapy to be incredibly helpful in the management of symptoms of depression/anxiety. Dr. Michelle Linn-Gust of the American Association of Suicidology wrote a fantastic article about How Pets Help
Lastly the most accessible option available to anyone to get help 24/7 is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline
Considering the sheer number of those lost to suicide it is very important for everyone to begin acknowledging the seriousness of mental health disorders, acknowledge the need for increased access to mental health treatment, and to break the stigma. Everyone literally has the power to save a life by simply asking questions and not shying away from difficult or uncomfortable conversations.
Lastly, I cannot stress this enough to anyone having thoughts of suicide….
Say something. Tell someone. Ask for help. Help is out there. Hope is out there whether you believe it or not.
In the End… You do matter.