Published on September 10, 2021

A Closer Look at Suicide Awareness, Prevention

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and MidMichigan Health wishes to continue to raise awareness and educate the community on the risk factors and warning signs of suicide.

“Suicide is preventable, and we can all be a part of that prevention,” said Kathy Dollard, Psy.D., L.P., director of behavioral health, MidMichigan Health.“Everyone can play a role by learning to recognize the warning signs, showing compassion and offering support.”

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline states that knowing the following warning signs may help determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide: 

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

Suicide prevention starts with recognizing these warning signs and taking them seriously. “If you think someone you know may be feeling suicidal, the best thing to do is ask. These conversations may feel difficult and uncomfortable, which is entirely normal,” continued Dollard.

The National Institute of Mental Health offers these five action steps:

  1. Ask. “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Keep them safe. Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. Be there. Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect. Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s (1-800-273-TALK (8255) and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741) in your phone, so it’s there when you need it. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. Stay connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

“Start the conversation, provide support, and direct help to those who need it,” concluded Dollard. “These important steps can prevent suicides and save lives.”

Those who believe someone is in imminent danger of taking their own life, call 911 immediately. Those seeking help are encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255). Those in crisis can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.

MidMichigan Health offers comprehensive behavioral health services from outpatient one-on-one therapy, intense outpatient program to meet the need of older adults, to partial hospitalization program and inpatient services. A complete list of services can be view at midmichigan.org/mentalhealth. A free on-line depression screening is available at midmichigan.org/depression.