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Signs of Suicide and Preventive Steps You Can Take

There have been a few recent high-profile suicides and as a result, it has brought mental health concerns to the forefront of discussions. There is still much more to discuss and much more work to do to help the people in need. 

Dr. Arjun Reyes talks about suicide warning signs and what you can do if you suspect someone may be in danger of harming themselves.
Signs of Suicide and Preventive Steps You Can Take
Featured Speaker:
Arjun Reyes, MD
Dr. Arjun Reyes, MD is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology. He is the medical director for Henry Mayo’s Behavioral Health program.

Learn more about Henry Mayo’s Behavioral Health program

Melanie Cole (Host): Everyone can feel down at times. However, if you suffer from clinical depression, without the proper treatment your feelings of despair can become so severe, that you consider taking your own life. My guest today is Dr. Arjun Reyes. He’s the Medical Director of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Behavioral Health. Dr. Reyes who is at the greatest risk of suicide? Do we have certain risk factors or parameters that we can look to predictors in a way?

Arjun Reyes, MD (Guest): Absolutely. There are definite risk factors. Obviously, someone who makes statements that they are suicidal is a risk factor. But in actuality, it’s not the most important risk factor. Because a lot of patients who complete suicide, don’t tell anybody they are suicidal at all. So, a large group of people who commit suicide, don’t tell anybody they are suicidal, don’t necessarily have a psychiatric diagnosis. So, the risk factors include significant substance abuse issues, a family history of suicide, obviously a history of major depression, panic attacks can be a risk factor, severe insomnia can be a risk factor, hopelessness can be a risk factor. So, those are some of the things that are risk factors for suicide.

Melanie: So, if they have been – you mentioned family history. If they have been exposed to it in their family, or had a close friend even; does that put it in someone’s mind because Dr. Reyes, people are sometimes afraid to talk to their loved ones about it because they say to themselves if I mention it, now I’m giving them this idea they might not otherwise have?

Dr. Reyes: In terms of mentioning something like that to family; I think it’s important to talk about it. I mean I think the risk factor is not the mentioning it, but the risk factor is genetic. I mean if you have a family member who has attempted or committed suicide; you are at risk genetically. But it’s important to talk about it because – people like I said, a lot of people who committed suicide don’t even tell anybody.

Melanie: So, then how do you talk to somebody? If they have got some of the risk factors, or you notice changes in them, what is the first thing someone is supposed to do?

Dr. Reyes: If you have a family member or a friend who you feel is at risk, then you need to really have them see a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I mean like I said, the risk factors are deterioration of functioning, becoming more withdrawn and isolative, less communicative, those kinds of things. They are not going to – in general, people are not going to tell anybody their deepest, darkest secrets. So, it’s better to get them the help they need instead of trying to tease it out from them.

Melanie: What if they won’t get help or they say oh, I’m not really considering that or that’s not what will help me? What do you do? Do you call help on somebody who you think might possibly harm themselves? Like what if they are putting messages on social media; is that considered a risk factor that would warn to red flag?

Dr. Reyes: Yes, that is. And the thing is, if they are making statements on social media and it sounds like suicidal content; you can actually contact a help line or 9-1-1 and then that patient or friend can be assessed for what’s called an LPS evaluation which determines whether they can be placed on a 72-hour hold or 72-hour observation. At that time, mental health professionals can observe somebody for 72-hours to assess how imminent their suicidal thinking is.

Melanie: If a person’s mind is made up, can they still be stopped? If they go through that 72-hour observation period and then they leave; is there any way to stop this?

Dr. Reyes: It’s very difficult. I have been working as an inpatient psychiatrist for almost twenty years now and I see suicidal patients every day and to predict it is extremely difficult even though I’m a so called professional in it. so, I mean it really is up to the person. They need to be forthcoming in terms of how they are feeling, how they are thinking and a lot of times, they are not. So, it’s just tough. Very tough.

Melanie: What do you say? I mean as the professional that you are, and if somebody does notice some of these things in their family members; what words can they use? That seems to be the biggest sticking point. People are afraid to say are you thinking of killing yourself? Let’s talk about this. What is it – what words do you want them to use doctor?

Dr. Reyes: I think it’s not so much the words. I think it’s more the connection. If you have a family member or a friend who you feel is at risk; the most important thing is that you are connected to that person and that they feel comfortable talking to you. So, there are not specific words. It’s really – it’s more heartfelt. When someone feels connected to another person; they are more apt to open up. So, it’s all about relationships. That’s the bottom line. And if that person feels that you two are connected and that you care; the chances are they are going be more open and then you will know exactly what they are thinking and how they are feeling.

Melanie: Do you think there’s still a stigma surrounding mental illness and that that’s why people are maybe not as willing to talk about this?

Dr. Reyes: Yes, definitely there is still a huge stigma. Most people do not want to be viewed as depressed of have a mental health issue. So, they are going to try not to talk about it and also a lot of times, the suicidality also can be very impulsive so, people can become suicidal on a dime based on a certain situation. So, that’s another reason why it’s so unpredictable.

Melanie: We’ve seen a lot in the media recently Dr. Reyes that some pretty high-profile people have taken their own lives. Do you see the media coverage of that as a positive to bring out awareness like we are doing this segment here today or do you think that it might make other people that admired those people say well maybe that’s the way out for me too?

Dr. Reyes: Personally, I think it does both. It can do that. It can do that to people who are at high risk, but also at the same time, it needs to be brought out in the open so that people can try to get the help they need. When people hear about these kinds of things, the people who are depressed and are on the border of suicide might want to call a therapist or a psychiatrist to get the help they need. Because I think a big sign and symptom for suicide is also hopelessness. Hopelessness can lead to suicide and if people feel like they can turn to someone for help; then it will help that symptom of hopelessness.

Melanie: And if you have thoughts within yourself of this; what do you advise people to do, if they are thinking to themselves this is the only way out?

Dr. Reyes: My advice to them is really, really contact a mental health professional whether it be a psychologist or psychiatrist and get an evaluation. Because it really – suicidal thoughts are just basically a perspective, that’s all there are. They are a permanent solution to a temporary problem and if you can process through it with somebody; you will realize that.

Melanie: And do you have some best advice about dealing with that hopelessness?

Dr. Reyes: My best advice with dealing with hopelessness is turn to the people that you love and get support and also at the same time, get the therapy you need.

Melanie: And the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. That’s 1-800-273-TALK. Or you can text TALK to 741-741. You’re listening to It’s Your Health Radio with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. For more information please visit, that’s And if you know someone who has thoughts of suicide or you yourself do, please use those phone numbers and get the help that you need. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for tuning in.