The suicides of celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade last week have brought greater attention to suicide and mental health in the United States.
Also last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report noting that suicide rates rose sharply in the United States from 1999 to 2016. Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in 2016, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Anyone can fall victim to suicide, however, individuals who have mental health conditions or substance abuse challenges are at a higher risk.
Some of the warning signs that may lead to suicide include withdrawal from normal activities, increased irritability, prolonged sadness and hopelessness (lasting two weeks or longer), and verbalization of suicidal thoughts.
“If a loved one has talked about taking their own life, it should be taken very seriously,” says Marissa Leslie, MD, medical director of mental health services at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville. “Early intervention and treatment can help save a life.”
Dr. Leslie provides the following tips on caring for yourself and supporting loved ones in need:
- Make time for a mental health check in. Take at least 30 minutes each day to do something that you enjoy and helps you de-stress. It could be meditation, exercise, reading or listening to music.
- Build an emotional support network of trusted friends and family. Do not be ashamed to confide in them so they can provide emotional support, if you need help.
- If you have recurring thoughts of hurting yourself, seek help immediately. Go to your nearest emergency department or call 911.
Supporting loved ones
- Check in on friends and loved ones regularly, particularly those with a history of mental health challenges.
- Know when and how to seek help for a loved one in crisis. If they are contemplating suicide, encourage them to get professional help immediately or call 911. Mental health experts can also provide additional resources and pathways for you to get help for your loved one.
“Our loved ones may try to minimize their situation, but we should lovingly let them know that we are there for them and be more assertive about the need for them to get help,” says Dr. Leslie.