What to do – Treatment and Support
Many of us have encountered suicide as a topic in one way or another, but as a topic it is not one that regularly factors in our reality. What would you do if you were suddenly made aware of a loved one’s intentions to cause themselves serious harm, possibly fatally? We are conditioned to talk ourselves out of uncomfortable situations, most often dismissing them as “none of our business” or “paranoia”, but we should not entirely dismiss our gut instinct and instead take these signs seriously. After all, 50% – 75% of all suicides are preceded by a warning – some indicate their intentions in conversations with a friend or a family member.
If you should find yourself engaged in such a discussion, be sure to listen carefully to what is being said and communicate your concern. Similarly, if the topic is depression do not worry about asking the person if they are contemplating suicide and, if they are, what method they have in mind. This will provide you with more information to help in the prevention of suicide. The AFSP recommends asking if they have a therapist or if they are taking medication, and warns against trying to “argue someone out of suicide. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary and that depression can be treated.” Do not try to tell them the value of their lives, or how their death would impact those they love – stick to direct discussion about their issue.
Do encourage the person to seek help immediately, either with a physician or a mental health professional. Remember that the person who is considering suicide may not be convinced that they can be helped so be prepared to get further involved by finding a means of help and treatment. If you must, physically take them to the treatment facility. Be prepared to make some snap decisions, talk of suicide is not something to put on the back burner or to address at a later date. If you find yourself dealing with a sudden and serious crisis, take the following steps:
- Do not leave the person alone.
- Remove from the vicinity any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used for suicide.
- Take the person to an emergency room or walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital.
- If a psychiatric facility is unavailable, go to your nearest hospital or clinic.
- If the above options are unavailable, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Warning Signs in Others
- Talking about suicide.
- Looking for ways to die (internet searches for how to commit suicide, looking for guns, pills, etc.)
- Statements about hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness.
- Preoccupation with death.
- Suddenly happier, calmer.
- Loss of interest in things one cares about.
- Visiting or calling people one cares about.
- Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
- Giving things away, such as prized possessions.
Major depression is not the only kind of depression, there is bipolar depression and other depressive illness, to include schizophrenia, eating disorders, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. All of these are risk factors and should be taken into consideration. Anxiety disorders on the whole are also likely factors in suicide or suicide attempts, as is alcohol and/or drug abuse. Other risk factors include gender (males are more likely to commit suicide than females) and past history. Also, neurotransmitters have been linked to suicide. Those who have committed suicide appear to have a lower level of serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleactic acid (5-HIAA) in their cerebrospinal fluid.
How You Feel
- Ideation (thinking, talking or wishing about suicide)
- Substance use or abuse (increased use or change in substance)
- Purposelessness (no sense of purpose or belonging)
- Trapped (feeling like there is no way out)
- Hopelessness (there is nothing to live for, no hope or optimism)
- Withdrawal (from family, friends, work, school, activities, hobbies)
- Anxiety (restlessness, irritability, agitation)
- Recklessness (high risk-taking behavior)
- Mood disturbance (dramatic changes in mood)
Help and Resources
- Emergency – 911
- Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and Master Resiliency Classes are available through ACS – Units may contact Army Community Service directly to schedule training. A complete listing of MRT courses offered can be found at www.fortgordon.com/acs/.
- The Army Suicide Prevention Office is not a crisis center and does not provide counseling services. If you are feeling distressed or hopeless, thinking about death or wanting to die, or, if you are concerned about someone who may be suicidal, please contact Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at www.army.mil/csf/.
- The Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) – 1-866-966-1020 The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) was established in November 2007 to integrate knowledge and identify, evaluate and disseminate evidence based practices and standards for the treatment of psychological health and TBI within the Defense Department. DCoE is part of the Military Health System, which provides a ‘continuum of care’ – from initial accession to deployment to discharge. DCoE works across the entire continuum of care to promote resilience, rehabilitation and reintegration for warriors, families and veterans with psychological health concerns and traumatic brain injuries.
- TAPS hosts a National Military Suicide Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for young survivors. It will be held in San Diego, California October 5-7. Information can be found at www.taps.org.
- The Army’s comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at www.preventsuicide.army.mil.
- Wounded Soldier and Family Hotline – 1-800-984-8523
CONUS DSN: 421-3700
OCONUS DSN: 312-421-3700