Dammy Damstrom-Albach 2017-09-30 07:24:54
Many people do not realize that suicides can be prevented. Yet there are a number of realistic measures that communities, provinces and the country as a whole can take to reduce the risk, including: • limiting access to means (e.g., pesticides, medication, guns) • treating people with mental illnesses or disorders (especially depression, alcoholism and schizophrenia) • providing follow-up to those who have made suicide attempts • encouraging responsible media reporting • training primary health care workers • engaging in mental health promotion and stigma reduction Take threats seriously At the individual level, it is important—in fact, courageous—to ask for help when struggling and to offer it if someone seems distressed. Only a few suicides happen with no warning. Most people who die by suicide give definite signs of their intentions. Therefore, all threats of self-harm should be taken seriously. In addition, research shows that most people who attempt suicide are ambivalent rather than entirely intent on dying. If there are any indications that a person may be overwhelmed then ask about suicide clearly and directly. Signs include changes in behaviour, appearance or mood; increased use of alcohol or drugs; appearing depressed, anxious, numb or increasingly irritable; withdrawal, isolation or recklessness; and expressions of hopelessness, helplessness and talk of suicide or wanting to die, or of feeling trapped or like a burden. If someone says they are thinking about suicide, stay calm and listen as the person talks about their feelings and circumstances. Take any threats of suicide seriously and stay with the person until you can connect them with additional support or community resources. This might include calling 1-800-SUICIDE (a BC-wide 24/7 distress line), a family physician, a walk-in or mental health clinic, the nearest hospital emergency room or 911. Be prepared safeTALK is a workshop program that prepares people over age 15 to recognize when someone may be thinking about suicide. We talk about how to ask a person directly about their intentions, and how to connect them with further help should they indeed be feeling overwhelmed or at risk. Our work is grounded in the understanding that most people with thoughts of suicide do not truly want to die, but are struggling with pain in their lives and may not be able to see a way to deal with it. Underlying this is the belief that suicide prevention is everybody’s business and that anyone can learn to be a suicide-alert helper. safeTALK participants learn to: • notice and respond to situations where suicidal thoughts might be present • move beyond the common tendency to miss, dismiss and avoid talk of suicide • apply the TALK steps: Tell, Ask, Listen and Keep safe • know community resources and how to connect someone with thoughts of suicide to them for further help Another available program is Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), which focuses on suicide first-aid training. Delivered to more than one million people since 1983, ASIST teaches participants to recognize when someone may have thoughts of suicide and to work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety. Over the course of the two-day workshop, participants learn to: • understand the ways that personal and societal attitudes affect views on suicide and interventions • provide guidance and suicide first aid to a person at risk in ways that meet their individual safety needs • identify the key elements of an effective suicide safety plan and the actions required to implement it • appreciate the value of improving and integrating suicideprevention resources in the community at large • recognize other important aspects of suicide prevention, including life promotion and self-care Save a life Everyone should know what to look for, and how to ask and respond to someone who may be at risk of suicide. Every life is precious. Know that you are just as likely to encounter people at risk among colleagues, friends and family members as you are among customers, clients or patients. To learn more about, find or schedule a safeTALK or an ASIST program near you, go to cmha.bc.ca/types-programs-services/ suicide-prevention. Dammy Damstrom-Albach is the manager of suicide prevention gatekeeper training for the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division, in Vancouver Just the facts The suicide rate for Canadians, as measured by the World Health Organization, is 15 per 100,000 people. Yet according to numerous studies, rates are higher among specific groups. For example, the suicide rate for Inuit peoples living in northern Canada is between 60 and 75 per 100,000 people, significantly higher than that of the general population. Men vs Women: Men die by suicide at a rate four times higher than that of women. Women, however, make three or four times more suicide attempts than men, and are hospitalized for attempted suicide at 1.5 times the rate of men. Studies indicate that there is a significant correlation between a history of sexual abuse and the lifetime number of suicide attempts, and this correlation is twice as strong for women as for men. Age: In Canada, suicide accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths among 15- to 24-year-olds, and 16 per cent among 16- to 44-year olds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24 years. Seventy-three per cent of hospital admissions for attempted suicide are for people between the ages of 15 and 44 years. Suicide and mental illness: People with mood disorders are at a particularly high risk of suicide. Studies indicate that more than 90 per cent of suicide victims have a diagnosable psychiatric illness, and suicide is the most common cause of death among people with schizophrenia. Major depression and bipolar disorder account for 15–25 per cent of all deaths by suicide in patients with severe mood disorders. Seasonal influences: Despite a commonly held belief that the Christmas season has the highest suicide rate of the year, studies have proven that, across North America, suicide rates are actually lower at that time of year— but rates of depression are higher. Late July and August have the highest suicide rates of all the months of the year. Some studies suggest that the increase is due to the seasonal change, and that this period is one that often brings about changes in personal situations. A number of studies indicate that a particular period of risk for vulnerable teens is the return to school. Whatever the reason, the rates are so high among Aboriginal youth at this time of year that the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says autumn is referred to as “the suicide season.” Myths and realities Myth: Young people rarely think about suicide. Reality: Teens and suicide are more closely linked than adults might expect. In a survey of 15,000 grade 7–12 students in BC, 34 per cent knew of someone who had attempted or died by suicide; 16 per cent had seriously considered suicide; 14 per cent had made a suicide plan; seven per cent had made a suicide attempt; and two per cent had required medical attention due to an attempt. Myth: Talking about suicide will give a young person the idea, or permission, to consider suicide as a solution to their problems. Reality: Talking calmly about suicide, without showing fear or making judgements, can bring relief to a person who is feeling terribly isolated. A willingness to listen shows sincere concern; encouraging someone to speak about their suicidal feelings can reduce the risk of an attempt. Myth: Suicide is sudden and unpredictable. Reality: Suicide is most often a process, not an event. Eight out of 10 people who die by suicide give some (or even many) indications of their intentions. Myth: Suicidal people are determined to die. Reality: Suicidal youth are in pain. They do not necessarily want to die; rather, they want their pain to end. If their ability to cope is stretched to the limit, or if problems occur together with a mental illness, it can seem that death is the only way to make the pain stop. Myth: Suicidal youth are only seeking attention or trying to manipulate others. Reality: Efforts to manipulate or grab attention are always a cause for concern. It is difficult to determine if a youth is at risk of suicide. All suicide threats must be taken seriously. Myth: A suicidal person will always be at risk. Reality: Most people feel suicidal at some time in their lives. The overwhelming desire to escape from pain can dissipate when the problem or pressure is relieved. Learning effective coping techniques to deal with stressful situations can help.
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