Published on September 10, 2020

Talking and Seeking Help Are Crucial to Help Prevent Suicides

“You are not alone.” These four words is a message to each and every one who has ever been depressed, anxious, had suicidal thoughts or suffer from mental illness. During Suicide Prevention Month, MidMichigan Health professionals remind you that it is okay to talk about suicide and that seeking help is crucial and never a sign of weakness.

“According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is now the tenth most common cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death in those 10 to 34 years old,” said Kathy Dollard, Psy.D., L.P., director of behavioral health at MidMichigan Health. “Paying attention to warning signs and certain behaviors in individuals can be key to getting them the support and help that they need.”

The warning signs before suicide aren’t always clear, nor are they universal. Suicide is often complex and usually not from a single cause. Still, across the board, mental health experts say certain behaviors shouldn’t be ignored.

Signals that may indicate someone is in need of help can include both verbal signs and behavioral cues. Verbal signs may be talking about wanting to die or kill oneself; declarations of feeling trapped or having nothing to live for; talking about great guilt or unbearable pain; insistence of being a burden to others; speaking of revenge; lack of communication or noticeable withdrawal.

Behavioral cues that may signal an individual is in trouble can include acting anxious, agitated or restless; increased use of alcohol or drugs; sleeping too little or too much; suggestive actions, such as online searches or obtaining a gun; giving away possessions or making visits to say goodbye; reckless conduct or extreme mood swings.

Suicide can become a threat after a loss. It could be the death of a loved one, including a pet, or the loss of a job or relationship.

Although the age of onset is usually mid-teens, mental health conditions can also begin to develop in younger children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms in children and teens are behavioral. Symptoms may include changes in school performance, excessive worry or anxiety, fighting to avoid bed or school, hyperactive behavior, frequent nightmares, disobedience or temper tantrums. In addition to the symptoms mentioned, teens might isolate, use substances, and have drastic personality changes.

To help address mental health and the wellbeing of middle and high school youth, the ROCK Center for Youth Development was recently awarded a grant from the Midland Area Community Foundation. The grant will be used to implement the University of Michigan’s Peer to Peer Depression Awareness Program in Midland county high and middle schools.

“Middle and high school age is when students first experience depression and anxiety symptoms, so it is important that they are able to recognize it and feel comfortable seeking help early,” explains Dollard, co-chair of a coalition for youth suicide prevention and a board member of the ROCK. “The Peer to Peer program includes training for school personal about mental health concerns and suicide prevention, selecting youth who will be trained and mentored as they launch a school-wide awareness campaign and establishing mental health resources for successful and timely referral when a youth is identified as needing care. The program is built on the premise that teens are more likely to listen to their friends than a well-meaning adult. If we can help youth to know what to do when one of their friends is struggling, we can potentially save lives.”

MidMichigan Health offers a variety of behavioral health programs, including psychiatric inpatient care, outpatient care and office-based care. Those interested in learning more may visit www.midmichigan.org/mentalhealth.

Those concerned about the imminent danger of another taking their life should call 911 immediately. Those needing assistance or have questions are recommended to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255). In addition, people in crisis can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.