Freeman Medical Musings Blog

Break the code of silence

Posted by Debbie Fitzgerald, EdS, LPC, NCC, Ozark Center Crisis Services Director, Region 5 Suicide Prevention Coordinator, on August 23, 2016

During National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, it is important to remember lives lost to suicide, as well as to provide information about available resources for individuals who may be struggling with severe depression.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, a suicide attempt is made every 30 seconds in the United States. That means that every 12.3 minutes someone takes his/her life, accounting for 117 individuals each day or 42,773 suicide deaths annually. In southwest Missouri (Barton, Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties), 49 lives were tragically lost to suicide in 2014. That same year, Missouri ranked 17th in the nation in the number of suicides; statistics show that 1,017 Missouri citizens took their lives in 2014.

Missouri loses more lives to suicide than auto accidents, yet the topic is seldom discussed. Suicide is a heavy subject for those contemplating self-injury. Stigma attached to mental illness causes individuals to be ashamed of their thoughts and feelings. Individuals suffering remain silent about their thoughts, and those around them dare not ask if they are ok.

When suicidal individuals end their life, to end their pain, they pass their pain on to loved ones left behind; leaving them to make sense of the loss and navigate the tragedy. Research shows that approximately 18 people are impacted by each death. In our own community, at least 882 people have experienced this horrific loss and life disruption. Although suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, religious beliefs and/or background, tragedy can be avoided if the person struggling reaches out to a trained mental health professional. Mental health professionals can provide effective ways to help cope or survive the crisis. The best thing a person can do to help someone struggling with a possible life-threatening depression is to become educated about the warning signs of suicide and know what community resources are available.

Warning signs can include withdrawing from life, displaying extreme mood swings, sleeping too little or too much, increasing use of alcohol or drugs, feeling hopeless with no reason to live, feeling trapped, having unbearable emotional pain and wanting to die or kill oneself. If you recognize these warning signs in yourself, a friend, a co-worker or a loved one, be the change needed to break the code of silence. Talk directly and openly about your concerns. Help the individual get professional counseling treatment to avoid another life lost to suicide.

Ozark Center Crisis Services operates a free 24-hour hotline staffed by highly-trained mental health professionals. Crisis services are available by telephone at 417.347.7720 or 800.247.0661, as well as by text message at 720.7.TXTOZK. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24 hours per day at 800.273.8255. For a list of all services offered by Ozark Center, visit Help is readily available for anyone needing guidance or assistance.

To learn more about warning signs of suicide and how you can help someone, Ozark Center is holding a FREE community training workshop Saturday, September 10, 2016, at Freeman Business Center, 3220 McClelland Boulevard, Joplin. The sessions begin at 1:00 pm and end at 3:00 pm, with a balloon release to honor community members lost to suicide. Workshop sessions are open for adults and youths (grades 5–12). Fun activities for children younger than 5th grade will be provided. Reserve your spot by calling 417.347.7720.