Suicide is a subject that isn’t the most comfortable to discuss, but it is critically important to raise awareness. Medical professionals, especially, should take the time during Suicide Prevention Month to do a bit of self-education on the warning signs and take time to assess the mental health of themselves, their patients, and those around them.
According to the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 41,000 people take their own lives every year. While it is very important to look for signs in patients who are troubled, it is also important to be on the lookout for signs within other medical professionals. Because of the high stress of the medical profession, frequent cases of burnout, and dealing with difficult situations on a regular basis, physicians and other medical staff can be at high risk for suicide.
According to NAMI, those who show the following signs may be at risk for suicide. If you notice these signs in yourself or someone else, talk to them, their loved ones, or a mental health professional who can help them begin to work through these issues.
- Withdrawal from social situations
- Verbal threats to kill themselves, even seemingly comments about how it would be easier if they just weren’t around can be a warning sign
- Increased and reckless drug and alcohol abuse
- Impulsivity, aggressiveness, and overall recklessness
- Preoccupation with death and dying
- Severe mood swings
The following signs are immediate red flags and steps should be taken to intervene should someone exhibit these traits. A mental health professional can assist if you are unsure how to handle the situation.
- Steps taken to obtain a firearm, medication, or another tool that could be used to commit suicide, while exhibiting other warning signs
- Giving away possessions and getting personal affairs in order
- Saying their “goodbyes” to their loved ones
- Their depression and desperation takes a sudden turn to calmness
Do not be afraid to speak up and step in if you have suspicions that someone is going through a mental health crisis that has them leaning in the direction of suicide. Be open, honest, and caring and let them know that you are there to help them take the steps that are needed to get better. By supporting everyone in our community, we can help to erase the stigma of mental illness and encourage those who are having thoughts of self-harm to get the help that they need.
Suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death, but we all must do our part in keeping ourselves and those we care about from becoming another statistic. Ensure that you are properly educated on the signs and what to do if you suspect that someone is on the road toward self-harm. Take time to talk about these subjects with co-workers, staff, and friends and family. Make sure that hotline numbers are prominently posted throughout your practice or facility. If we all work together and look out for each other, we can save lives.