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Suicide: What to Watch For

Suicide has been in the news lately. Learn the warning signs and what to do if you think someone may be at risk.

Heather Partridge, a behavioral health consultant, shares what to watch for and how to help.
Suicide: What to Watch For
Featured Speaker:
Heather Partridge, MA
Heather Partridge, MA has an extensive background working in the Human Services field. This includes a MA in Counseling, BA in sociology and an Addiction Care Worker Diploma. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor, National Certified Counselor, Master Addiction Counselor, Substance Abuse Professional and Certified Addiction Counselor II in SC.
Transcription:

Bill Klaproth: With the high profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and new statistics from the CDC that show suicide rates are on the rise, what are the warning signs and what should you do if you think someone you love might be at risk? Here to talk with us is Heather Partridge, a behavioral health consultant with Tidelands Health. Thank you so much for your time. What are the factors that contribute to suicide?

Heather Partridge, MA, LPC/S, LPC, NCC, MAC, CACII, SAP: There are a few different factors and each case might be a little different and some are similar, but often if there is a history of someone struggling with mental illness such as depression, that's something that can put them at an increased risk of suicide due to experiencing feelings of hopelessness and isolation where they start to think that things might not get better. In addition, sometimes people when they choose to engage in that act or have thoughts about suicide, they might be under the influence of substances. Some substances such as alcohol actually acts as an antidepressant, so it'll make any depression symptoms that are already there more intense and can increase the likelihood they would follow through with such an act. Being under the influence of a substance might make them also make a decision that’s more impulsive, so they don’t fully think it through and might choose to go ahead with that.

A lot of times, there's a general theme of hopelessness when someone makes that decision. They have just decided that things can't get better, things aren’t going to get better, and they decide that might be their only way to deal with what's going on in their lives. It’s not always the case that someone has had mental health disorder diagnosed that sometimes it’s not someone that’s been struggling with depression for a long time, but it might be that they had just undergone a big change in their life, whether it be a relationship ending or a sudden financial distress that sometimes that might be their precipitating event.

Bill: It’s true then that many people who die by suicide did not have a known mental health condition at the time of death, right?

Heather: Yes. I think that’s the case in some situations. Sometimes they might not have a diagnosed one because they’ve never reached out for help, they might have never met with a counselor or a physician or psychiatrist that diagnosed them with a mental health condition, but sometimes they don't have a history of depression or anxiety or substance use. Something has come up in their life, there have been changes that they feel like they're just not equipped to handle and they can't see their way.

Bill: Sometimes, it’s really hard to tell in a person, so what are the symptoms of someone who may be in trouble? What should we be looking out for?

Heather: If you notice someone is suddenly acting different, that they started isolating themselves, they seem really down, they're not doing the activities that they used to enjoy, if they're making comments like ‘I think I would be better off dead' and ‘I just want this all to end' and ‘I can't see a way out,' making comments like that, it's important to talk to them about that and ask about that. If there's a history of suicidal attempts, that's also important to be aware of and that can be a predictor of suicide occurring. Sometimes other things that will occur is suddenly people are getting rid of their belongings. Their prized possessions they're giving away, they might be drawing up a will because they're in the planning stages of that suicide. Interestingly enough, you might find in those days leading up to it that suddenly this person seems more content, that they're happier, and that might occur because they’ve come to terms with their decision to commit suicide and feel like they're finally not going to have to feel this way anymore.

Bill: That is something. If someone is isolating themselves, feeling down, not doing activities they normally would do, getting rid of belongings, making out a will, and that’s chilling about all of a sudden, their mood changes and they seem more up because they’ve come to peace with making the decision that they're going to take their own life, that’s chilling. If you recognize these symptoms in someone, is it safe to ask ‘are you thinking about hurting yourself?’ What should we do if we recognize these symptoms?

Heather: Absolutely. You want to ask because by asking you're encouraging them to talk about. You're opening up that opportunity to connect with them. You can offer to bring them to see a counselor. You can help them come up with a safety plan of what to do with these thoughts. The only thing you want to make sure you don’t do if you're talking to them is you don’t want to encourage those thoughts. You don’t want to agree with them. You don’t want to make a comment like ‘if I were you, I would want to hurt myself too.’ You don’t want to support those negative thoughts they're having about ending their life. You want to show them that you're there for support and try and connect with them and talk to them about getting help and seeing where there's a way where you can help find some hope, that that’s not the only answer.

Bill: You mentioned that feeling of hopelessness, so by reaching out and engaging them in conversation and getting them to open up, sometimes they might see the light, somebody out there cares about me, I can get this out that I'm feeling inside. Just by that nature of talking to someone, it sounds like what you're saying is that alone can really help engage the person and move them along away from the suicidal thoughts, is that right?

Heather: Exactly. Maybe they won't feel so isolated anymore. Sometimes if you're someone where you've struggled with some of those feelings yourself at some point in time, sharing your story with them might help them feel connected as well and for them to see that things can get better, you can feel better with the right help, with the right resources and support that it doesn't have to be like this forever.

Bill: Are there forms of treatment for someone who may be having suicidal thoughts?

Heather: The first you step you want to do is try and reach out to a professional. Maybe you start with talking to your family physician and asking them to make a referral recommend them one, even doing a Google search and looking for counselors in the area or a psychiatrist in the area. At that first appointment, they'll work with you to do an evaluation and see what's going on and then make recommendations. There are treatment options available, a cognitive behavior therapy, that can be done through a counseling session and there are medications available as well that can help. Both of those therapies combined can be really effective and even sometimes just one of the therapies on their own can be helpful. There are treatment options out there and then, of course, there are support groups in addition to that, doing group counseling, individual counseling, these are all things that can help build up the recovery capital so they feel supported and they feel like there is hope and they're connecting with others and know they're not alone.

Bill: This is really an important subject and an important topic and thank you for your time. What would you say to someone who is listening to this podcast right now and maybe having suicidal thoughts and just reaching for hope in this come across this podcast, what would you say to them?

Heather: Don't give up. There's hope there. You can get better. Reach out. Don't be afraid to reach out. There's a lot of people going through what you're going through. The more we talk about it, the more we bring awareness to it and the more resources that we develop for people, then the quicker everyone can get better. Don't be afraid to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, and reach out to your doctor, your friends, your family, your local counselors, and ask for help because there are people there are waiting to help you.

Bill: Such good advice. Pull a friend aside, talk to your mom or your dad or a trusted family friend or a physician, just find someone to talk to you. It sounds like that’s what you're saying. If someone wants to talk to you at Tidelands Health, how can they get a hold of you?

Heather: They can call us at 843-652-8440 and they’ll just go ahead and take good care of them and schedule an appointment and get them in and we’ll go from there.

Bill: Thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it. For more information about Tidelands Health physicians, services and physicians, visit tidelandshealth.org. That’s tidelandshealth.org. This is Better Health Radio. I'm Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.