Talking about suicide is helpful, not hurtful

Wellness
Mother comforting crying daughter

If you’re concerned a loved one is thinking about suicide, you may be reluctant to bring it up in conversation.
But mental health experts say discussing suicide is beneficial for those who need help, and it won’t make your friend or family member more likely to go through with what they’re contemplating.
“If you are concerned that someone is contemplating suicide, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it because it will not increase their risk of following through,” says Heather Partridge, a behavioral health counselor at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road. “Reaching out to them can help reduce their feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Talk to them about seeing a mental health professional or offer to help them find a counselor.”
Suicide is a growing problem in South Carolina. From 2014-2016, the state’s suicide rate increased 38 percent, compared to a national average increase of 25 percent, according to numbers recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Look for signs

Sometimes people signal their intentions by commenting about their plans to hurt themselves or saying they don’t want to live anymore, Partridge says.
“Pay attention to sudden changes in behavior patterns, such as the inability to perform daily tasks, suddenly engaging in risky behavior or changes in performance at work or school,” she says.
Sometimes, once someone has made the decision to take his or her life, he or she starts giving away belongings.
“They might also have written a suicide note and come across as having a sense of calmness because they have made their decision and believe their suffering is getting ready to end,” she says.
Previous suicide attempts and a verbalized plan are risk factors that should never be ignored, she says.
Talk to the person and help him or her find hope. Don’t ever agree with them that suicide is the only answer, Partridge says.

Getting help

A majority of people (54 percent) who take their own lives have no known mental health condition, according to the CDC.
For those who do see a therapist, there is no “magic number of therapy sessions” that guarantee a person will never experience depression or suicidal ideation, Partridge says.
Many people who commit suicide have never been to a single therapy session.
But for those who do go, every patient is different and every treatment plan should be individualized.
“It is important each patient finds a counselor they can connect with who provides evidence-based services and will work with the patient’s treatment team of family members, physicians and psychiatrists, all of whom have the common goal of helping the patient get better,” she says.
If you believe a loved one is in imminent danger of suicide, call 911, Partridge says. If you or a loved one need someone to talk to, one option is the national suicide prevention lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), which can connect people with help 24 hours a day.

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