Be Vigilant About Signs of Suicide

Ask the Experts by Megan Gunnell, LMSW

Q: I've been hearing more and more about suicide recently, both in our community and nationwide. Is there a trend in the spring? What are the warning signs I should be looking out for and what can we do as a community?

A: A recent publication on health.com stated: "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates spike in the spring and to a lesser extent in the fall - not around the holidays as everyone suspects. And suicides in general have increased 24% between 1999-2014, according to a CDC report last year.

The uptick begins in early April and late May. Why? Seasonal brightness may have something to do with it. In a 2016 op-ed in The Washington Post, Harvard professor Matthew Nock cited a study published in JAMA Psychiatry that found as hours of sunlight increased, so did the risk of suicide. "The authors speculate that sunlight could boost energy and motivation, thus giving people who are depressed the ability to take action and make a suicide attempt," he wrote.

It's also a very hard time for those who are significantly depressed to be surrounded by a world that is waking up and coming alive. The polarity of what's around them and how they feel inside is vastly different, sometimes making the person feel even less connected or more isolated from the experience of the world around them.

We need to do a better job of talking about mental health, of reducing stigma and of recognizing warning signs and symptoms.

Risk factors are described in three categories; talk, behavior and mood. If a person exhibits one or more of these warning signs they could be at risk and may need more support.

Talk:

  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Experiencing unbearable pain
  • Having no reason to live
  • Talk about killing themselves


Behavior:

  • Increased substance use
  • Searching for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
  • Acting recklessly
  • Withdrawing from activities Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression

Mood:

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation
  • Anxiety

Be vigilant to warning signs in your family members and friends. If you're concerned about someone, say something. Reach out and let them know you care, they matter and getting help is important.

As a community we can also show our support and awareness in many ways. One of which is by supporting the upcoming "Out of the Darkness" Walk to fight suicide. These walks are organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and are happening all across the country to bring mental health and suicide "out of the darkness."

Our local walk will happen on June 4th from 9am-12noon at the Grosse Pointe South Stadium Field and Plaza. All are welcome. To register or donate, please visit www.afsp.org/grossepointe

Megan Gunnell, LMSW, MT-BC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Grosse Pointe. Megan specializes in women's issues and couples therapy. She supports personal transformative work through a practice grounded in mindfulness as well as integrative medicine and the healing arts. Megan also offers traditional talk therapy with a focus on cognitive behavioral therapy and self-care. She can be reached at 248-635-5285 or visit her website megangunnell.com. Gunnell is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals.

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