Police Chief: Our Community’s Role in Reducing Suicides
Suicide is preventable and is a serious public health concern. Each suicide impacts individuals, families, and communities. The financial costs of suicide are approximately $69 billion per year. These numbers undervalue the severity of this crisis.
In 2015, more than 500,000 people were treated in United States emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries. Also, many of our friends, neighbors and family members think of suicide. For adults aged 18 and older, for each suicide, there are approximately 30 adults who report making a suicide attempt.
However, the risk for suicidal behavior is complex.
People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk for suicide, but some groups are at a higher risk than others. Men are about four times more likely than women to die from suicide. Yet, women are inclined to express suicidal thoughts and to make nonfatal attempts. Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated most people who died by suicide had experienced, “one or more factors that may have contributed, including a relationship problem, a crisis in the recent couple weeks and problematic substance abuse. Our data show that the problem is getting worse.”
The cause of suicide is often associated with mental health conditions, but no single factor causes suicide. In fact, many of those who commit suicide do not have a diagnosed mental health condition. Relationship difficulties, substance use, declining physical health, loss of a job, financial difficulties, and legal problems all contribute to suicide.
Discussing the facts about suicide, risk factors, protective factors, prevention strategies and intervention strategies will help our community more effectively intervene when a loved one is suicidal.
- 54% of those who died from suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
- Annually, in Connecticut, more than four times as many people die by suicide than by homicide.
- Asking someone if they are considering suicide often prevents suicide.
- In Connecticut, from 1999-2016 suicide increased 19.2%.
- In the United States, there are approximately 123 suicides per day.
- In 2016, about 45,000 lives were lost to suicide.
- On average, in Connecticut, one person dies by suicide every 22 hours.
- After alcohol and anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, opioids are the third most common drug involved with suicides.
- Over 50% of those who die by suicide contacted their primary health care provider in the preceding month.
- Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK.
- Suicide is the number 1 cause of death in students age 10-17.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
Suicide Risk Factors:
A combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide, but they might not be direct causes. Some risk factors are:
- A family history of suicide
- Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Feelings of hopelessness
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Isolation or a sense of being cut off from other people
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Loss (relational/divorce, social, work, or financial)
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Talking about wanting to die
Suicide Protective Factors:
Identifying and understanding protective factors is just as important as identifying risk factors. Protective factors such as those listed below can shield individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior.
- Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help-seeking
- Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
- Family and community support (connectedness)
- Integrating primary health care with behavioral health care
- Skills in problem-solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
- Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
Contact our Department for help whenever someone you love needs help:
- Call 911 and we will help.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
- Call 1-800-273-8255, to speak with someone who will provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn about ways to help someone in crisis call the same number.
Call these Local Resources for Help:
- Adult Mobile Crisis, F.S. Dubois Center, 203-358-8500
- Child Mobile Crisis, Child Guidance Center, call 211, press 1*
Consider Suicide Prevention Training:
QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Gatekeeper, Training for Suicide Prevention, is a 1-2-hour educational program designed to teach lay and professional “gatekeepers” the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to respond. Gatekeepers can include anyone who can help (e.g., parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, caseworkers, police officers). The process follows three steps: (1) Question the individual’s desire or intent regarding suicide, (2) Persuade the person to seek and accept help, and (3) Refer the person to appropriate resources. www.qprinstitute.com
Embrace these Life-Saving Tips:
- Ask someone you are worried about if they’re thinking about suicide. Keep them safe by reducing their access to lethal means of suicide such as medications and firearms. Be there with them and listen to what they need.
- Do not leave a person at risk alone.
- Identify and support people at risk of suicide.
- Offer activities that bring people together, so they feel connected and not alone.
- Promote safe and supportive environments.
- Seek professional help for those at risk.
- Teach coping and problem-solving skills to help people manage challenges with relationships, jobs, health, or other concerns.
Get support from friends and family:
- Seek help from supportive family, friends, co-workers or clergy.
Seek medical help:
- If you or a loved one is suicidal, go to a hospital; call your doctor or call 911.
Learn the Warning Signs:
Learn the warning signs of suicide to identify and appropriately respond to people at risk. Find out how you can save a life by visiting, www.BeThe1to.com
The Role of the Media in Suicide Prevention:
Research shows that responsible reporting by the media prevents suicides. Stories of effective coping behaviors that prevented a suicide often inspire those in a crisis to seek help.
It Takes a Community Effort to Reduce Suicides
Suicide is a complex issue that is not easily solved. Reducing suicides requires a community-based effort that includes education, prevention, and intervention. While such services are critical, preventing suicide mandates approaches that go beyond mental health issues to address broader family, community, and societal issues.
Our town has taken affirmative steps to address our resident’s behavioral health needs by appointing Dr. John Santopietro as the town’s first-ever director of behavioral health. Dr. Santopietro will guide our Town in addressing many complex behavioral health issues prevalent in our Town. One of these issues will be suicide prevention.
By working together as a community, we can make a difference. Saving just one life will make our efforts invaluable. If you know someone in crisis, please intervene, seek professional help and show that you care. Your actions can save a life. Ignoring or marginalizing the risks of suicide leads to tragedy.
Be better informed, connected, and send anonymous tips to our Department by downloading the “MYPD” application in the iPhone or Android marketplace. After downloading the application search for “New Canaan” get connected and then go to “submit tip.”
Follow us on Twitter @newcanaanpolice and the web at www.newcanaanpolice.org
RESOURCES and REFERENCES:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, www.afsp.org
National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Call-1-800-273-TALK (8255), www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Suicide Risk Protective Factors, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/riskprotectivefactors.html
United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov
U.S. Suicide Rates Increased more than 25%, CDC says, CNN Health, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/07/health/suicide-report-cdc/index.html