Let's Talk About It: NAMI Louisiana Discusses Importance of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
By: Savannah Wright
NAMI Louisiana is dedicated to eradicating the stigma, myths, and misconceptions of mental illnesses, improving the quality of life for all who are affected by these illnesses, and supporting recovery. Some of the biggest myths and misconceptions we work to eradicate are those that surround the topic of suicide.
As we near the end of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we take the time to reflect on our own state's growing suicide rates, and what we can do to address that problem.
The Times-Picayune has stated that "Since the year 2000, suicide rates in Louisiana have risen by more than 29 percent among both men and women." As of 2018, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Louisiana. What is even more striking is that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 15-34.
Statistics actually show that, on average, one person dies by suicide every 13 hours in the state of Louisiana.
Longleaf Hospital, located in Alexandria, recorded that "suicide was responsible for 722 deaths in Louisiana in 2017." This figure not only puts the suicide rate in Louisiana at 15.26% per 100,000 people, but actually puts us above the national average of 13.26%.
On top of these statistics, "on an average day in Louisiana, nearly 40 people pick up the phone and call 1-800-273-TALK, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline." For most parishes in Louisiana, those calls are fielded by crisis intervention specialists at a New Orleans-based nonprofit called Via Link.
So, what can we do?
First and foremost, If you or someone you know is in a crisis, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.
Know the warning signs:
Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
Increased alcohol and drug use
Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
Dramatic mood swings
Talking, writing or thinking about death
Impulsive or reckless behavior
*Cited from NAMI
Know the risk factors for suicide:
Research has found that more than half of people (54%) who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. A number of other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:
A family history of suicide.
Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
Intoxication. More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence.
Access to firearms.
A serious or chronic medical illness.
Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
A history of trauma or abuse.
Age. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
A recent tragedy or loss.
Agitation and sleep deprivation.
*Cited from NAMI
Be a support system to someone you know or that you feel may be suicidal:
Engage - Engage the person at risk in a personable way, use eye contact, give your full attention, don’t act distracted.
Explore - Explore their situation from his or her point of view by encouraging the open expression of their personal concerns. Show that you want to understand their feelings.
Identify - Identify whether or not the person is currently thinking about suicide. Be direct, ask questions.
Inquire - If the person is indeed contemplating suicide, you need to inquire into the reasons why these events and feelings are leading to a consideration of suicide at this time. Why now?
Assess - Use closed questions that require a yes/no answer. Be specific. The questions you ask at this point address the persons plan for suicide and information about prior suicidal behavior. Your assessment is a combination of gut feelings and an assessment of risk factors you have learned about.
*Cited from Huffington Post
Finally, remember one of the most important things we can do is to talk about it. The biggest myth surrounding suicide is that if we talk about it, it will lead to and encourage suicide. But, as NAMI states, "talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma, but also allows individuals to seek help, rethink their opinions and share their story with others. We all need to talk more about suicide."
If we want to see change, we need to be the change.
Even though one in four families experience some form of brain disorder, there are few educational sources that explain the treatment and recovery process. The lack of knowledge about brain disorders in the medical profession and the public is immense. Through peer courses, frequent newsletters, electronic media, and a close working relationship with many collaborative coalitions, we are able to educate our members and the public. NAMI Louisiana has been leading the way to fill the many gaps by acting as an educator and communicator of information.
To View Suicide Rates by Parish:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)