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Published: January, 2013; Vol 9, Num 8

 

Suicide Season Is 12 Months Long

Myth: Suicides spike around the holidays.

Fact: The suicide rate is actually lowest in December. It peaks during spring and fall. Suicides are a major public health problem year-round.

Depression and Suicide

Depression is a serious illness. Untreated, it can sometimes contribute to suicide.  If you or someone you know is depressed, get help.

See if you have access to a Member Assistance Program (MAP). Your health and welfare fund may also provide benefits.

The LHSFNA offers a list of mental health resources. Additionally, the What Is Depression? health alert can be ordered by clicking on Publications at www.lhsfna.org.

Annually, more than 36,000 Americans and 4,000 Canadians take their own lives. Another 374,000 report making an attempt. The resulting medical and lost work costs – $34.6 billion annually in the U.S. alone – do not take into account the toll exacted on family, friends and colleagues who may need counseling and time away from work. In addition to grief, they may blame themselves for not seeing warning signs or for not intervening successfully. If they regard suicide as a selfish act, they also struggle with anger.

People who commit suicide usually do so because they are experiencing intense pain that, physically or emotionally, overwhelms them. A Journal of Psychiatric Research study finds that people who are suicidal often have decreased levels of serotonin, the chemical in the brain that contributes to feelings of wellbeing. Often, they are under the tragic belief that, in taking their own lives, they are doing family and friends a favor. With professional treatment, most problems can be addressed in ways that may help someone considering suicide to find reasons to go on living.

Warning signs that someone may be considering suicide include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Giving away belongings
  • Talking about going away or the need to "get my affairs in order"
  • Suddenly changing behavior, especially calmness after a period of anxiety
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as heavily drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, cutting themselves
  • Isolating oneself
  • Suddenly having trouble in school or at work
  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or guilty
  • Changing sleep or eating habits
  • Arranging ways to take one's own life (such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills)

If you are having thoughts about suicide or if you suspect that someone you know is considering suicide, get help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free, confidential hotline, provides 24/7 assistance to anyone in suicidal crisis or anyone in emotional distress. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) connects you to the crisis center nearest you. These centers provide counseling and mental health referrals.

Call 9-1-1 if someone you know has made a suicide attempt. If you are with the person, stay there until help arrives.

Those who talk about killing themselves should be taken seriously. People who have attempted suicide are very likely to try again.

Don't be afraid to ask someone if he or she is thinking about suicide. If the answer is no but you believe otherwise, go with your gut and seek assistance. In matters of life and death, erring on the side of caution is always correct.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]