Knowing the signs of suicide risks


(Posted Oct. 31, 2017)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

Sixth-grade students in the Jonathan Alder School District will learn this week about the signs of suicide, a leading causes of death in young people.

District teachers trained through the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus will lead the education sessions.

“Students are more likely to trust an adult they see every day,” said Melanie Luken, a licensed social worker from the center, about the decision to have  teachers lead the sessions. “Trusted adults make talking about it less scary.”

To give parents in the district a look at what will be  taught, the Jonathan Alder Community Support Group held a Signs of Suicide awareness program Oct. 24 at Canaan Middle School. This group was formed a couple of years ago after two Jonathan Alder students took their own lives.

Luken’s presentation focused on depression as a mental illness. It included tips on what to look for and how to get help. Luken said that depression can strike people of all backgrounds, age groups and ethnicities.

“If someone is talking about suicide, it could mean they are reaching out for help,” Luken cautioned. “Talking about it (with them) is a helpful thing to do.”

Materials distributed at the Oct. 24 session listed warning signs, what to do and what not to do. Signs that a person is severely depressed or at risk for suicide and need immediate attention include:

• talking about feeling hopeless or wanting to die and posting it on social media;

• looking for ways to end their lives;

• expressing unbearable emotional pain;

• visiting or calling people to say “goodbye;”

• giving away prized possessions;

• suddenly becoming calm or cheerful after a long period of depression.

Signs that a person may be struggling with depression that requires evaluation by a mental health professional include:

• feeling sad or irritable more often;

• sleeping or eating more (or less) than usual;

• showing little or no interest in pleasurable activities;

• withdrawing from others;

• participating in reckless behavior that is out of character;

• engaging in self-injurious behavior;

• having trouble concentrating or performing poorly in school;

• complaining frequently about physical symptoms;

• increasing use of alcohol or drugs.

When a person shares thoughts of wanting to die by suicide or warning signs become obvious, Luken suggests that individuals who want to help use these strategies:

• remain calm, take a deep breath and do not react emotionally. It’s OK to feel uncomfortable;

• be patient and speak in a relaxed, reassuring tone;

• tell the person that you care and acknowledge that they are hurting;

• be direct about your concerns. State specific changes you see in the person’s mood and/or behavior. Ask them if they are thinking about suicide or have tried to kill themselves.

• get professional help;

• never leave a person alone if they are showing warning signs of suicide.

Some ways of responding to a person who is having suicidal thoughts are not effective, Luken said. Consider these tips:

• Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong.

• Don’t lecture on the value of life or question why someone could feel this way.

• Don’t be sworn to secrecy or promise confidentiality. Indicate that safety and getting help are top priority.

• Convey the message that suicide is preventable and treatment is effective.

Luken also encouraged parents to strengthen family connections.

“Belonging is a big thing for kids,” she said.

Promoting healthy habits also can help.

“Nutrition, sleep and exercise can prevent and treat depression” Luken said. “They are free medicine.”

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