The World Health Organization (WHO) has proclaimed September 10 as World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). The purpose is to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides using various activities. WSPD has been around since 2003. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) the month of October is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 700,000 people die due to suicide every year and it is the fourth leading cause of death among 15 to 19-year-olds. Every suicide is a tragedy and a health problem that affects families, friends, communities, and entire countries with long-lasting effects on the people left behind.
Suicide ranked as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 35 (National Institute of Mental Health). The Orange County Health Care Agency reported an all-time high for the 21st century with a rate of 10.8 per 100,000 people with a 34% increase in teen suicides in the County.
There is more concern today particularly with the elderly becoming depressed due to declining health, loss of loved ones, and isolation, especially due to COVID. According to the Orange County Health Agency, the highest suicide rate during the period between 2014-2018 was in Laguna Woods, a city with a population of about 17,000 residents with an average age of 75 years old, which is 37.9 suicide deaths per 100,000. Perhaps the medical profession should administer the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit Questionnaire to adults prior to the visit with the doctor to assess depression, a major factor in suicide.
The causes and signs of suicide are multi-factored and possibly include some of the following:
1) A family history of suicide, suffering from physical illness, chronic pain, a disability, previous suicidal attempts, history of mental disorder, particularly clinical depression (90% had an identifiable psychiatric disorder before death), hopeless feeling, and isolation.
2) Inability to deal with life stressors such as financial, emotional (loss of a loved one), and relational (events such as divorce, unemployment, etc.).
3) Drug abuse, family history of child abuse, bullying, and cyberbullying.
4) Easy access and acquisition of lethal methods, such as guns and pills.
5) Stigma that prevents seeking of mental health therapy or unavailability of mental health services.
6) Being a white male.
7) Impulsive behavior.
8) Inability to communicate feelings of suicidal thoughts.
9) Giving away possessions.
10) Suddenly happy because they have resolved their depression with the intention of suicide.
The World Health Organization says that suicide is a serious public health problem that can be prevented with the following:
1) Evidence-based interventions to prevent suicide done in a timely manner.
2) Limited access to the means of suicide (pesticides, firearms, and certain medications).
3) Interaction with the media for responsible reporting of suicide.
4) Fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents.
5) Early identification, assessment, management, and follow-up on anyone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Jeffrey Nagel, director of Orange County Behavioral Health Service, suggests that reducing the stigma related to getting help and early intervention efforts for those most at risk could be preventive. Carolina Gutierrez-Richau, director of the Preventative Mental Health Department at Council on Aging in Southern California says that educating the community is important. Also, in many cases, expression of feelings and communication was missing and perhaps could have prevented suicide by getting professional help.
Cognitive behavioral therapies have shown to be effective treatments for suicide prevention with such as creating a safety plan, being able to manage bad feelings, changing your thinking, and staying well.
Mental Health Hotline/Emergency: dial 988
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255