Suicide is a challenging topic to write about but we feel it important to raise awareness about this sensitive topic and hopefully arm each of you with some tools to help in its prevention. Though suicide is still somewhat rare, even one is too many and unfortunately the rate has been rising in Utah over the past few years. Plus, Utah already has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. To those readers who have dealt with this tragedy first hand, we express our deep regret and condolences. We also hope that if someone reading this is or has contemplated suicide that you will seek help. There are many resources that are available and we will talk about some of them in this article.
As our community seeks to bond together to raise awareness of the warning signs and to give people help that might seek it, some excellent resources are available. One of the best programs is currently utilized in our schools. It is called the HOPE program(hope4utah.com). This peer to peer support structure consists of HOPE Squads which are student groups trained to identify suicide warning signs in their peers, and alert adults to those signs. Weber High heads up our local HOPE week held each September and each feeder school also participates. Later in this article, you will read a student-written article by two North Ogden Junior High students detailing this year’s events associated with their school’s HOPE week.
McKay Dee Hospital’s N.U. HOPE Task Force
We also have local community involvement as well. In 2007 McKay Dee Hospital spearheaded efforts to form the N.U.HOPE Taskforce to help address suicide awareness and prevention in Weber County. This Task Force holds an annual walk each fall, helps with outreach and education at each of the area schools and teaches the nationally accredited community prevention model known as QPR: which stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. QPR Trainers have trained over 10,000 people in 308 presentations and continue to teach and serve our community.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(suicideprevetionlifeline.org 1-800-273-TALK(8255)) has some excellent resources and has started a social media campaign with the hashtag #BeThe1To and educates the public to Be The One To do each of the following 1. Ask 2. Keep Them Safe 3. Be There 4. Help Them Connect and 5. Follow Up.
1. Ask: Studies show that people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks them in a caring way.
2. Keep Them Safe: When lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline.
3. Be There: Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to someone who listens without judgement.
4. Help Them Connect: Studies indicate that helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness.
5. Follow Up: Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention, especially for individuals after they have been discharged from hospitals or care services.
The most important thing we can each do is to be aware. I know two young men who were worried about a friend who had displayed some of these warning signs. They approached the young man’s father and shared their concern. They also began making efforts to be with the young man more and making sure he felt included in their activities. I am sure there are amazing things happening all across our community but I call upon each of us to be extra vigilant in our efforts so we can help those who are facing struggles.
Hope4Utah is one great source of local help and education that has a great potential for making an impact. The idea was born in the Provo City School District which used to average one to two suicides per year. The Hope4Utah model was introduced and Provo City School District is now one of the most successful school districts in the state in preventing suicide among youth. Dr. Greg Hudnall implemented peer-to-peer HOPE Squads in the Provo School District and the efforts have been highly rewarded with drastically reduced numbers of suicides in the area.
School aged children can get involved in HOPE Squads to receive education and to increase awareness for the help that is available to those who are struggling. There are many factors that might lead someone to consider suicide. Mental health concerns are real and are luckily something that can be treated. The biggest challenge is to know when that help is needed. By using the information in this article and following the Q.P.R. approach to Question, Persuade and Report situations to parents or leaders, hopefully, we can all make an impact and bring suicides down or even eliminate them all together.
– I’m going to kill myself.
– If (x)doesn’t happen, I will kill myself
– I wish I were dead.
– I can’t go on.
– Who would care if I were dead?
– No one would miss me.
– You won’t have to worry about me much longer
– Any previous suicide attempt. (40% more at risk)
– Acquiring the means – such as a gun or pills
– Putting personal affairs in order
– Giving away prized possessions
– Change in interaction with family or friends
– Recent disappointment or rejection
– Sudden decline or improvement in academic or work performance
– Unexplained anger, aggression or irritability
– Physical symptoms such as decline in personal hygiene/grooming, eating disturbances, changes in sleep patterns, chronic headaches, stomach problems
– Financial problems – self or family
– Sudden unexpected loss of freedom, or fear or punishment
– Fear of becoming a burden to others
– Victim of assault
– Anything that would bring shame to family or self
– Suspended/expelled from school
– Fired from job
– Family problems/ alienation
– Loss of any major relationship
– Death of a family member or close friend, especially if by suicide
– Diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness