Knowing warning signs can help stop death from suicide

Social worker discusses prevention methods

LEWISTOWN — Suicide claims more than 44,000 American lives every year, according to the World Health Organization.

As America recognizes Suicide Prevention Week, local Geisinger clinical social worker Kendra McKee described some warning signs, risks and suicide prevention methods.

“When someone says they are thinking about suicide, or says things that sound as if the person is considering suicide, you may not be sure what to do to help,” McKee said. “Whether you should take talk of suicide seriously, or if your intervention might make the situation worse. Always talk to them.”

McKee said some things to remember if you know someone is suffering, is to ask the person if he or she ever feels like just giving up, if he or she has previously thought about suicide and if he or she has previously considered how or when to do it.

“Firearms are the most commonly used method of completing suicide, accounting for more than 50 percent of all suicides,” McKee said. “This method is mainly used by men and the most common method for women was self-poisoning.”

McKee said alcohol and drug abuse increases the risk of suicide.

“Persons who are dependent on substances may have a number of other risk factors for suicide,” McKee said. “Substance use and abuse can be common among persons prone to be impulsive, and among persons who engage in many types of high risk behaviors that result in self-harm.”

McKee also said suicide is not determined by genetics, but psychiatric illnesses will lead to suicide thoughts.

“While suicidal behavior is not genetically inherited, major psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism and substance abuse, and certain personality disorders, which run in families, increase the risk for suicidal behavior,” McKee said. “This does not mean that suicidal behavior is inevitable for individuals with this family history. It simply means that such persons may be more vulnerable and should take steps to reduce their risk, such as getting evaluation and treatment at the first sign of mental illness.”

Some warning signs of someone thinking of suicide may include talking about suicide, withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be alone, having mood swings and saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.

For more information about suicide prevention, visit helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention.

If you know someone that may need help or has thoughts of suicide, call the suicide prevention hotline at (800) 273-8255.