Kate Hurley, Staff Writer
Note: September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Suicide affects every one of us — whether it’s someone we know or someone in our community, whether it’s a completed suicide or an attempt, whether we hear about it on the news or worry that someone we know and love might be in danger of hurting themselves.
Personally, I have been impacted by suicides like my high school boyfriend’s dad; an ex-boyfriend; a dear friend. Even though it was years ago, I still remember the death of my boyfriend’s dad. It devastated the family and the community, and it created shock waves that continue to ripple today. We all wish we could have prevented a suicide and wonder if we missed signs or could have done more.
A friend of mine and a suicide-survivor, Randy*, recently shared his story with me. Not only was it a powerful wake-up call for me about the need to learn the risk factors and warning signs for the risk of suicide, it gave me hope that help was out there, that I could actually do something.
Randy had gone to a bridge to commit suicide. He walked back and forth for hours. Tourists streamed past him, but nobody stopped him to ask if anything was wrong. Finally, he raced to the railing and jumped over. And as soon as his hands left the railing, he was filled with regret.
Eventually, he realized that his pacing back and forth was actually a silent plea for help. He thinks that if just one of those people who passed him on the bridge that day had asked if something was wrong, he wouldn’t have jumped. It moved me to realize one small act or word from even a stranger could have changed his life’s story.
How many lives could we save if we all knew the risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior?
Risk factors don’t cause or predict suicidal behavior, but people suffering from them may be more likely to consider or attempt suicide. The following is a short list of some of the risk factors associated with the possibility of suicidal behavior:
RISK FACTORS FOR SUICIDE (courtesy of suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
- Mental health issues
- Alcohol and other substance use and abuse
- History of trauma or abuse
- Major physical illnesses
- Previous suicide attempt(s) or family history of suicide
- Loss of relationship(s), job, or financial loss
- Lack of social support and sense of isolation or hopelessness
- Stigma associated with asking for help
- Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
- Local clusters of suicide or exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)
Knowing the warning signs may help you determine if you, a friend, or loved one is at risk for suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following warning signs, please call The Center for Mental Health Crisis Line at 970.252.6220 (locally) or Colorado Crisis Services at 1-800-493-TALK (8255) (statewide).
SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS (with thanks to suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
- Expressing the desire to die or to kill themselves
- Researching ways to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling hopeless, trapped, in pain, or having no reason to live
- Expressing concern about being a burden to others
- Behaving recklessly
- Increasing alcohol and substance use
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Extreme mood swings
Randy experienced major behavioral changes before attempting suicide. He talked about wanting to die and feeling hopeless. He began drinking heavily, often blacking out; he also acted recklessly and took major risks. Looking back, he realizes his behavior was a cry for help.
And there is help.
The Center for Mental Health can help by phone, online, or in person.
If you are in crisis, please call our Crisis line at 970.252.6220 or text 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.
Using our confidential, free, and quick self-screening tool, you can assess your own mental health situation online.
The Center for Mental Health has locations across the Western Slope — you can make an appointment or walk-in for help.
The Crisis Walk-in Center in Montrose provides urgent behavioral health to anyone in our region. If you think you or someone you know is in danger of hurting themselves, walk in 24-hours a day, 365 days a year for help. No insurance is needed. It will open on September 16, 2019.
Know the risk factors, know the warning signs, know where to go for help, and together we can all help prevent suicide.