When a high profile death like that of Robin Williams occurs and is covered by every news outlet and virally shared via social media, it’s important to have an open dialogue about suicide, its risks and preventability. One of the leading causes of death in the U.S., suicide is also one of the most preventable.
“As individuals, we can take steps to help prevent suicide in various ways,” says Lisa Shea, MD, medical director at Butler Hospital. “First, we can take care of ourselves, and seek help when we need it.”
Know what can influence your personal risk factors:
- Untreated mental illness, such as severe depression or bipolar disorder.
- The occurrence of an emotionally traumatic event, like the loss of a loved one or job.
- Serious physical illness.
- Drug or alcohol dependence.
You can also learn the major warning signs and openly talk to any loved ones you may be concerned about.
Know the signs of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in others:
- Talking about suicide, dying or “going away.”
- Self-destructive or reckless behaviors, like heavy drinking and illegal drug use.
- Expressing thoughts of extreme hopelessness.
- Giving away possessions and working on getting affairs in order.
- A sudden change in outlook, from anxious and hopeless to calm and relaxed. This could indicate the person has resolved to die. Dr. Shea says, “This sign seems strange to associate with suicide risk, but the change in demeanor is typically very jarring to witness because it seems like a major shift that happens almost too quickly.”
“If you’re concerned about someone, let them know that you are there to support them, listen to them, and encourage them to get help,” says Dr. Shea.