This week, and all year round, you have the power to help save a life, maybe even your own. This is National Suicide Prevention Week, which is meant to bring attention to the very serious and fully-preventable health issue of suicide.
A successful suicide occurs every 17 minutes in the United States, and every 40 seconds worldwide. In Louisville, the suicide rate was 13.2 per 100,000 people in 2006, higher than the national average of 11.1. Kentucky loses three times as many citizens to suicide than to homicide.
Further, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-24 in Kentucky. But, not only are young people at risk; the suicide rate for elderly men is the highest of all. Attempted suicide rates are much higher, resulting in 2,920 inpatient hospital admissions in Kentucky in 2003, of which, 409 were in Jefferson County, according to Louisville Metro's statistics on suicide.
The Harvard School of Public Health has reported that people have a higher risk of taking their own lives where there are more guns. In most studies, a two- to five-fold increase in suicides occur when there is a presence of a firearm in the home. In 2002, 69% of deaths occurred by firearm, and 73% by firearm in 2003, in Kentucky.
Today, someone you know, someone you love, or maybe you, may need help. Warning signs from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline include:
Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities - seemingly without thinking
Feeling trapped - like there's no way out
Increasing alcohol or drug use
Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
Experiencing dramatic mood changes
Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
Making what seem to be final arrangements, and giving away possessions can be another important warning.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK(8255), or visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.
The Department of Veterans Affairs' Veterans Health Administration has set up a special help line just for veterans. By calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and pressing #1, you will be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has parterned with the VA and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline "to ensure veterans in emotional crisis have free, 24/7 access to trained counselors."
If you feel someone you know is immediately at risk, get help. Don't leave that person alone, and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK. You will be connected to the nearest available crisis center.
For additional information about suicide prevention, visit KentuckySuicidePrevention.org.