Suicide prevention is more than just a week
By Heidi Karns
LCSW, Behavioral Health Specialist, Ministry Medical Group Eagle River, Rhinelander and Woodruff
As a behavioral health specialist for Ministry Medical Group’s
Eagle River and Woodruff clinics, I meet with patients who are experiencing suicidal ideation. Some of the hardest questions I ask include, “Are you suicidal? How often do you think of suicide? Do you have a plan? Do you have access to guns? If a patient is suicidal it is then my duty to contact their loved one to ensure they are safe within their home and community. This may result in hospitalization, crisis bed, contacting local law enforcement, an appointment with a counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist etc.
When a patient is diagnosed with depression, has suicidal ideation, or a history of suicidal ideation, I will develop a safety plan and share possible warning signs of suicide. Majority of individuals who are suicidal often show warning signs (see box).
September 6 -12 is recognized as Suicide Prevention Week. The week has come and gone; however the issue of suicide remains at a very high cost to our county, our state, our nation, and last but definitely not least our loved ones. Per AAS, “If there is a suicide every 12.8 minutes, then there are 25 new loss survivors every 12.8 minutes.”
According to the AAS 2013 data, there are 850 suicides per year in the state of Wisconsin. In the United States (51 rankings to include the District of Columbia), Wisconsin is ranked number 23 for suicides per year. In 2012, Wisconsin was ranked number 27.
According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), in 2013 there were a total of 41,149 deaths by suicide in the United States, which is an increase from 2012, which was 38,364 suicides/year. There are approximately 105 suicides per day. At a global level, the World Health Organization (WHO) just released a report, “Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, over 800,000 people die by suicide across the world each year.” Accurate statistics remain difficult to obtain due to stigma associated with suicide, and how deaths are reported.
You do not have to be a mental health professional to help someone who is suicidal. My best advice is LISTEN and OBTAIN HELP. Understand why they are depressed? What are their current supports? How can you help? Offer to go the appointment with them.
All the individuals listed below are trained in helping someone who is actively suicidal or has thoughts of suicide. Remember if you are helping someone who is suicidal, “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”
Private therapist, family physician or nurse practitioner, school counselor, principal or religious/spiritual leader. There are also several local resources including;
Crisis # 1-888-299-1188 (Tri-county)
National Crisis # 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Ministry Behavioral Health #1-715-361-2805
National Alliance of Mental Health – #1-715-362-0423
For more information on Ministry Health Care, please visit ministryhealth.org.
An easy mnemonic to help remember these warning signs from American Association of Suicidology (AAS) is- IS PATH WARM?
I Ideation *Expressed or communicated ideation
* Threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or
kill him/herself; and/or
* Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms,
available pills, or other means; and/or
* Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are
out of the ordinary.
S Substance Abuse *Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
P Purposelessness *No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
A Anxiety *Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
T Trapped *Feeling trapped (like there’s no way out)
H Hopelessness *Hopelessness
W Withdrawal *Withdrawal from friends, family and society
A Anger *Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
R Recklessness *Acting reckless or engaging in risk activities, seemingly without
M Mood Change *Dramatic mood changes