Talk with your kids about teen suicide

Youth and elderly suicides are on the increase in the US. And, according to The World Health Organization (WHO) over 786,000 people committed suicide around the world in 1997. This is an effective suicide rate of around 10.7 per 100,000 population per year. To put this statistic in perspective, that is the equivalent of one suicide every forty seconds, somewhere in the world.

Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in the US with 31,204 deaths recorded in 1995. This approximates to around one death every seventeen minutes. There are more suicides than homicides each year in the US.

From 1952 to 1992, the incidence of suicide among teens and young adults tripled. Today, it is the third leading cause of death for teenagers aged 15-19 (after motor vehicle accidence and unintentional injury). Two-thirds of all suicides under 25 were committed with firearms (accounts for most of the increase in suicides from 1980 to 1992). The second most common method was hanging, third was poisoning. Suicide is increasing, particularly for those under 14 and in those over 65, while not the leading cause of death, the suicide rate is extremely high.

Young men commit suicide successfully at a higher rate than women in all 30 countries listed below. In the US, the ratio between men and women was 4.1:1 while in young people 15-24 the average ratio is 5.5:1 and the ratio increases with age within this group. In white males over 85, the suicide rate was 73.6/100,000 in 1993. For more information:  www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/10lc92c.htm ; www.nosuicide.com:80/stats.htm ; www/nimh.nih.gov/;www.nosoidice.com

How to Help Someone

If someone is feeling depressed or suicidal, our first response is to try to help. We offer advice, share our own experiences, try to find solutions. We’d do better to be quiet and listen. People who feel suicidal don’t want answers or solutions. They want a safe place to express their fears and anxieties, to be themselves.

Listening – really listening – is not easy. We must control the urge to say something – to make a comment, add to a story or offer advice. We need to listen not just to the facts that the person is telling us but to the feelings that lie behind them. We need to understand things from their perspective, not ours.

Here are some points to remember if you are helping a person who feels suicidal.

  • They want someone to listen. Someone who will take time to really listen to them. Someone who won’t judge, or give advice or opinions, but will give their undivided attention.
  • They want someone to trust. Someone who will respect them and won’t try to take charge. Someone who will treat everything in complete confidence.
  • They want someone to care. Someone who will make themselves available, put the person at ease and speak calmly. Someone who will reassure, accept and believe. Someone who will say, ‘I care.’

What do people who feel suicidal not want?

  • They don't want to be alone. Rejection can make the problem seem ten times worse. Having someone to turn to makes all the difference. Listen.
  • They don't want to be advised. Lectures don’t help. Nor does a suggestion to ‘cheer up’, or an easy assurance that ‘everything will be okay.’ Don’t analyze, compare, categorize or criticize. Listen.
  • They don't want to be interrogated. Don’t change the subject, don’t pity or patronize. Talking about feelings is difficult. People who feel suicidal don’t want to be rushed or put on the defensive. Listen.

So, if you are concerned that someone you know may be thinking of suicide, you can help. Remember, as a helper, do not promise to do anything you do not want to do or that you cannot do.

First of all...

If the person is actively suicidal, get help immediately. Call your local crisis service or the police, or take the person to the emergency room of your local hospital. Do not leave the person alone.

If the person has attempted suicide and needs medical attention, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency services number or text 741741

The following are suggestions for helping someone who is suicidal:

Ask the person - "Are you thinking of suicide?" Ask them if they have a plan and if they have the means. Asking someone if they are suicidal will not make them suicidal. Most likely they will be relieved that you have asked. Experts believe that most people are ambivalent about their wish to die.

Listen actively to what the person is saying to you. Remain calm and do not judge what you are being told. Do not advise the person not to feel the way they are.

Reassure the person that there is help for their problems and reassure them that they are not "bad" or "stupid" because they are thinking about suicide.

Help the person break down their problem(s) into more manageable pieces. It is easier to deal with one problem at a time.

Emphasize that there are ways other than suicide to solve problems. Help the person to explore these options, for example, ask them what else they could do to change their situation.

Offer to investigate counselling services.

Do not agree to keep the person's suicidal thoughts or plans a secret. Helping someone who is suicidal can be very stressful. Get help - ask family members and friends for their assistance and to share the responsibility.

Suggest that the person see a doctor for a complete physical. Although there are many things that family and friends can do to help, there may be underlying medical problems that require professional intervention. Your doctor can also refer patients to a psychiatrist, if necessary.

Try to get the person to see a trained counselor. Do not be surprised if the person refuses to go to a counselor - but be persistent. There are many types of caregivers for the suicidal. If the person will not go to a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, suggest, for example, they talk to a clergyperson, a guidance counselor or a teacher.

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Suicide is preventable. The first thing to do is recognize the signs in yourself or someone you know. The most common signs, according to Berman, include:

· Difficulties with relationships between friends, family, and others

· Feelings of isolation, or feeling unloved by others

· Feeling like you can’t solve the problems you face

· Impulsive and/or aggressive behavior when faced with a problem

· Alcohol and/or drug abuse

· Severe depression and persistent pessimism

· Suicidal thoughts

Serious about commiting suicide call here first 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
www.TheCitizensWhoCare.org