Suicide prevention in Idaho: Everyone has a role to play

Even though completed suicides are statistically rare, Idaho continues to have some of the highest rates in the United States. Death by suicide is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans ages 15-34 and for males up to age 54. That is very concerning, but it’s also important to know that most people who make an attempt don’t want to die, they want the pain to go away. Providing care and hope to someone having suicidal thoughts can help save a life. There are things you can do to help.

What are some of the warning signs that someone might be thinking about suicide?

Warning signs 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
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Having consistent nightmares
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Increased aggression, anger, or irritability
  • Change in sleep habits – either too much sleep or too little
  • Extreme mood swings

That’s quite a list. Are there certain times in a person’s life that are more likely to cause these signs?

The risk that someone might attempt suicide is higher if these signs are linked to a painful or stressful event or a loss. The risk is also greater when these signs are new or begin to happen more frequently. Those experiencing a mental illness, especially a mood disorder, are at a higher risk for making a suicide attempt and dying by suicide. Most people who die by suicide are not seeking mental health treatment at the time of their death. They often feel alone and isolated.

What should you do if you recognize some of these warning signs?

Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. The best thing to do is to ask the question directly: Are you thinking about killing yourself? And then listen to their response. Do not leave someone alone who is actively having serious thoughts of suicide. You can instill hope in that person with statements like, “I care if you live.” You also should do your best to work with the person to safely restrict his or her access to a method for killing themselves, such as firearms or drugs. Or you may need to encourage the person to see a mental health provider. Call 911 or take the person to the hospital if you believe he or she can’t be safe.

What are some of the local suicide prevention resources we can use?

The most familiar and excellent resource is the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is available 24/7 at (208) 398-4357 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Also available day and night are local crisis centers in Boise, Caldwell, Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Orofino, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello. Information about the crisis centers and other resources can be found by calling the Idaho Careline, which is available by dialing 2-1-1 anywhere in Idaho.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs most Tuesday mornings on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from Sept. 17.)

Resources:

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