Be Informed and Connected
July 2018 Issue
by Jane Kendall
Suicide is a final act of fatal desperation: Death as a result of inflicting injury to oneself with the intent to die. The statistics are alarming. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and was responsible for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016. Since 1999, half of the states have seen a 30 percent increase. And, suicide is a concern throughout the life span. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that suicide is the second leading cause for death in people aged 10 to 34, the fourth leading cause inages 35 to 64, and the eighth leading cause in ages 55 to 64. Eighty to 85-year-olds, who are running out of resources, are also a high-risk group for suicide.
The statistics are alarming. Suicide risk is higher among people who have experienced bullying, child abuse, sexual abuse, those who have previously made attempts, and people with poor problem solving skills. All age groups, genders, and races are impacted. The highest rates are reported among non-Hispanic American Indians, Alaskan Natives and non-Hispanic white populations, as well as veterans, military personnel and workers in certain occupational groups. High suicide rates are also noted in sexual minority youths (LGBT).
Dr. Ravi Srivastava, MD, FAPA, FASAM is the president of Hilton Head Psychiatric Clinics. He specializes in general psychiatry, adolescent psychiatry, and addiction medicine. In a recent interview, Dr. Srivastava shared that deaths by suicide in South Carolina are significantly above the national average: 815 in 2016, which averages one person every eleven hours. “Women make more attempts. Men are more successful: More than 50 percent are by gunshot. The highest rate right now is among men in their 40s and 50s. Most suicide attempts are not because of any diagnosed mental illness. Social reasons, relationship problems, family problems, job challenges, sudden change in economic status, alcohol and substance abuse, physical and mental health issues and legal problems are all contributing factors. The person may have or have had a mental illness or depression, but not in treatment at the time. Several commonly prescribed medications list potential side effects of depression, mental illness, and suicide. If you or someone you know is on medication and begins to show signs of depression, check with your pharmacist and prescribing physician.”
The road to suicide begins with feelings of helplessness, progressing to hopelessness, and ultimately worthlessness. Next, the person begins to plot how they will die. The method of choice depends on what is readily available to them: drugs, alcohol, guns, a bridge for jumping, belt or scarf for hanging, doorknob for strangulation. Neither fame nor fortune can shield someone from this ugly fate: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are among the most recent celebrity suicides. Death by suicide affects everyone, including family, friends, local, and global communities. Those left behind often experience shock, anger, guilt, and depression. They are also left to deal with the economic consequences of the suicide. In addition to the age group risks outlined by CDC, rural populations (meaning most areas outside of very large cities) are underserved when it comes to mental health services, and are therefore at greater risk for mental illness and suicide. There are few places to refer people to seek help in Beaufort County.
Everyone wants to know what they can do as individuals to decrease suicidal risk among their family members, friends, or co-workers. Individuals should be alert for abnormal behaviors, i.e. sadness, overeating, apathy, acting strangely, odd morbid comments. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that she/he does not seem to be doing well. Ask: What is going on? Encourage them to seek help from a professional therapist or their family physician. Persuade them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are in the presence of someone you believe to be imminently suicidal, stay with them and call 911. Remove all pills, alcohol, and guns—anything that might be used as a suicidal instrument. An ambulance will arrive, along with a deputy sheriff. They will evaluate the person for suicidal risk and transport him/her to the nearest hospital emergency room for further evaluation if necessary. If deemed to be a danger to him/herself or others, he/she will be involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric facility for care and treatment.
Ultimately a person needs more connectedness with family, friends, and health care providers to reach out for help when feeling overwhelmed and depressed.
Interconnectedness is an essential component of mental health. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention South Carolina Chapter brings together people of all backgrounds in communities throughout the state to fight suicide. They help fund research, offer educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support those affected by suicide. “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but it’s those who’ll ride with you on the bus when the limo breaks down that really count.” (Oprah Winfrey). Let’s all aim to build stronger, more inclusive community connections and surround ourselves with those who will ride on the bus with us.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
800 273-TALK | www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Hilton Head Psychiatric Clinics, Dr. Ravi Srivastava:
843 681-7546 | 60 Main Street, Suite H, Hilton Head Island, SC
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Lowcountry Chapter:
800 273-8255 | www.namilowcountry.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: