Guest entry by Kelly Decker, MA, LMHC
SUICIDE: To many individuals this word is uncomfortable to say, let alone discuss. It can invoke a multitude of feelings, ideas and perceptions in people that are strongly based on religion, societal values, or personal perceptions. However, it is an important subject as it is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States of America (CDC, 2021) and the 17th leading cause of death in Florida (Florida Department of Health, 2020).
Suicide is the act of ending your own life. Most often, people who die by suicide don’t really want to die, they just want their pain and/or suffering to end. This pain can be attributed to physical, emotional, and/or psychological pain. Can you imagine how much pain a person must be in to think that the only way out is by death?
At the beginning of the pandemic, researchers were fearful that there would also be an increase in suicides due to the psychological and social factors that were affected by the virus, including social isolation, job loss, loss of loved ones, and uncertainty of the future. Although studies show an increase in the reporting of depression and anxiety symptoms throughout the pandemic, data from the CDC indicates that suicide rates decreased overall by 3% between 2019 and 2020 (CDC, 2020). This decline may be attributed to the fact that the full impact of the pandemic cannot be felt yet. History indicates that in times of trouble, such as disasters or plagues, communities tend to band together in support of one another. However, as time drags on, this sense of community goes away and the real effects of the disaster can be seen. Thus, one can only assume that suicide rates will increase as the pandemic continues and more lives are lost or affected.
There is a belief that if you ask someone if they are thinking of suicide, you will be putting that thought in their head. This is an incorrect and harmful belief. The truth is, if you ask someone about suicide, you are saying to that person it is okay to talk about it. You are letting that person know that you care and you want to help them. You are giving that person the ability to voice their thoughts or feelings in a safe manner. You are, in fact, helping that person.
Below is a list of warning signs that you may see in person who is thinking about suicide:
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family and community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 9-1-1.
Please remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are always people that want to help.
- For emergencies, call 9-1-1.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-TALK / 1-800-273-8255
- Center for Progress and Excellence Mobile Crisis Response Team 1-844-395-4432