Preventing suicide in Idaho

Idaho and the mountain western states continually rank in the top 10 states for number of completed suicides per capita. But the good news is that completed suicides are not the norm – well over 90 percent of people who make attempts do not die by suicide. And with the creation of the Suicide Prevention Program in the Department of Health and Welfare during the last legislative session, the state of Idaho has made preventing suicide a priority.

Tell us about where we are with the Suicide Prevention Program.

We just got the funding to start up the program on July 1, and we have hired three staff, including program manager Kim Kane. We’re very excited about her leadership and expertise in the program. We have one more position to hire for, and then we can turn our energy to youth suicide prevention and intervention activities and public awareness. So you’ll likely be hearing more from us about suicide prevention as the program gets up and running. Meet Kim as she introduces the state’s suicide prevention program at a recent press conference hosted by the City of Boise and the Speedy Foundation. 

So let’s talk about suicide. What are the risk factors that someone might contemplate suicide?

Like other risky and life-threatening behaviors, suicides are associated with a variety of factors. It’s complicated, but some of the risk factors include access to lethal means, being exposed to suicides others have completed, a family history of suicide, and previous suicide attempts. It’s worth noting that most suicides in Idaho – more than 60 percent — are carried out with a firearm. There are other risk factors as well, but warning signs are really what you should be on the lookout for.

What’s the difference between risk factors and warning signs?

Basically, risk factors only become important if they are accompanied by warning signs, which include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or completing suicide
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, by searching online, stockpiling pills or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped or being a burden to others
  • Nightmares
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Increased aggression, anger or irritability
  • Change in sleeping habits – either too much sleep or too little
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Extreme mood swings

The risk is greater when these signs are new or happen more frequently. It’s also greater if these signs are linked to a painful or stressful event or a loss.

What can we do to help someone in crisis?  

Most importantly, don’t leave that person alone. Immediately limit his or her ability to get their hands on anything that could kill them, including firearms and drugs. Call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. It is a wonderful resource that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Other resources include the Department of Health and Welfare’s 24-hour regional mental health crisis lines, as well as the Idaho Careline, which is available by dialing 2-1-1.

(A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from Sept. 13.) 



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