Know signs of suicide, be ready to help

“We have been told by people that have survived an attempt (at suicide that) they did not want to die, they just want the psychological pain to stop,” Duane J. Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, told us this week.

That’s a chilling, heartbreaking comment that just might be incomprehensible to someone who never has experienced psychological struggles that run so deep.

But that comment also must send a clear message to all of us about the importance of raising awareness of mental health crises, suicidal thoughts and the ability to help.

Today wraps up Suicide Prevention Awareness month. However, that does not mean we can neatly file away this topic until next September. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

We must always be aware of emotional crises affecting those we love and ensure those in need have access to resources they critically need.

What’s worse, many mental health experts agree that depression and suicidal tendencies are more common today as part of the lingering emotional effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, Piccirilli said this week the number of calls on the general crisis hotline have increased with people having anxiety and difficulty coping, particularly since the pandemic.

Sadly, since January, 30 people have taken their lives to suicide in Mahoning County. Most of them were men over age 40. In all of 2021, 41 people took their lives in Mahoning County. Most of them were men and over age 50.

In a pro-active suicide prevention effort, Mahoning County Commissioners earlier this year named a Suicide Fatality Review Committee, comprised of representatives from The Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, coroner’s office, county health department and Youngstown city health department. The committee was created to review suicide deaths, looking for trends or other issues that could help prevent future suicides.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,979 people died of suicide in 2020, the most recent figure available, in the United States. In 2020, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million attempted suicide. And, sadly, children are not exempt.

In Ohio, 1,644 people committed suicide in 2020.

Psychologists explain that often warning signs from those contemplating suicide do exist. Too often to the untrained eye, they go unnoticed.

If a person deemed at high risk of suicide exhibits sudden mood changes or new behaviors, he or she may be suicidal. Those who speak about being a burden to others, having no reason to live, feeling trapped or in unbearable pain also may be contemplating suicide.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, some more specific warning signs of suicide might include: increased alcohol and drug use; aggressive behavior; withdrawal from friends, family and community; dramatic mood swings; and impulsive or reckless behavior.

More severe warning signs that warrant immediate help include things like collecting and saving pills; buying a weapon; giving away possessions; tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts; or saying goodbye to friends and family.

If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If you are unsure, a licensed mental health professional can help assess.

The main thing is to be aware and be proactive. Don’t mistakenly believe these warning signs are just a “phase” or that they will pass.

As Piccirilli also told us, more than half the people who completed suicides had sought medical attention in the months before take their life.

That startling fact should reinforce the need to dial 9-8-8 to seek help.



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