Continuing Suicide Prevention Efforts

07/05/2016

​Continuing Suicide Prevention Efforts
Healthy Living - July 5, 2016
David Prescott, PhD - Acadia Hospital

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As we celebrate our nation’s independence, many communities take time to acknowledge those who have served, or are serving, in our armed forces. In support of our veterans, mental health professionals continue to treat thousands of veterans and active military personnel who struggle with depression, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, and other mental health condition.
Suicide Rates For Veterans Continue at Higher than National Rate: The Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Defense have both focused significant attention on the issue of suicide prevention over the past several years. In spite of much hard work, suicide rates remain stubbornly high. 
  • For all Veterans, the number of suicides is estimated to be 22 per day.
  • Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars who are not currently deployed are the group at highest risk for suicide.
  • The suicide rate for active duty service members (18.3 per 100,000) is significantly higher than the national suicide rate (12.9 per 100,000).
 
Family and Friends Often See the Warning Signs of Suicide First:  Family and friends of people at increased risk for suicide often notice changes in mood or behavior which are concerning. People who attempt suicide typically have talked about suicide or death with someone prior to their attempt. While it is difficult and distressing to be with someone who is struggling emotionally, providing support and encouraging the person to take advantage of treatment and crisis intervention options usually helps. 
Warning Signs of Increased Suicide Risk Include:
  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
  • Neglecting physical appearance and basic health habits (eating, sleeping)
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and favorite activities
  • Frequent and dramatic mood changes.
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities – seemingly without thinking
 
Connecting People with Help:  Talking with someone about their thoughts of suicide rarely “pushes them over the edge.”  Rather, people who have considered suicide often feel relieved that someone is willing to listen.
Help, particularly for veterans and active duty service members, comes in many forms – both for immediate crisis intervention and longer term treatment. 
Crisis Intervention: If a person has an active and short term suicide plan, crisis lines are available 24 hours a day.  In addition to phone lines, the Veteran’s Administration has on-line crisis intervention chat capabilities that are staffed round the clock. The State of Maine also has 24-hour mental health crisis line workers.
V.A. Crisis Line:  1-800-273-8255
V.A. Live Confidential Chat:  www.veteranscrisisline.net
State of Maine Crisis Line:  1-888-568-1112
Mental Health Counseling: Professional counseling can help address the underlying conditions which often contribute to thoughts of suicide. Such conditions include clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse. Getting an initial counseling appointment sometimes requires patience and persistence. Likewise, improvements from mental health treatment may take longer than everyone wants. Nonetheless, counseling and sometimes medications are usually effective given time.  Counseling sessions often include:
  • Expressing one’s emotions and experiences, and thinking about seemingly unsolvable problems in new ways
  • Group therapy with other veterans or service personnel who struggle with similar problems.
  • Understanding the underlying conditions which cause emotional distress
  • Practicing coping mechanisms which bring some relief to sadness, anxiety and anger.
 
ADDITIONAL PLACES TO LOOK FOR HELP
Suicide Prevention Hotline:   http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Veterans Administration Health:  http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/
Suicide Prevention Resource Center:  http://www.sprc.org/
American Psychological Association:  http://www.apa.org/topics/suicide/index.aspx