National Suicide Prevention Week is an annual week-long campaign in the United States to inform the general public about suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide. By drawing attention to the problem of suicide, the campaign also strives to reduce the stigma surrounding the topic, as well as encourage individuals to pursue mental health assistance and support for individuals of all ages who may be contemplating or may have attempted suicide.
According to the “2013 Gaps and Needs Assessment” conducted by Smoky Mountain Mental Health which manages behavioral health services in this region, five of the seven Western North Carolina Counties have suicide rates at or above the state rate of 13.1 per 100,000. Those counties are listed as Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Macon and Swain. Of those, the two with the highest rates are Swain with 42.2 per 100,000 and Graham with 57.4 per 100,000.
Knowing the warning signs and what to do can be helpful when someone is contemplating death by suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), some of the warning signs include:
- talking about wanting to die
- looking for a way to kill oneself
- talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- talking about being a burden to others
- increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
- feeling humiliated
- sleeping too little or too much
- withdrawing or feeling isolated
- showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- displaying extreme mood swings
Knowing the signs can be the first step and the second is knowing what to do. The AFSP suggests the following if someone exhibits any of the signs:
- try not to leave the person alone and let them know you are concerned
- remove firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used by the individual in a suicide attempt
- call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This is a 24/7 services that offers free assistance to persons who may be suicidal or to those that support them.
- take the person to an emergency room or help them get help from a medical or mental health professional.
These are only some of the many signs and support options. For additional information visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at www.afsp.org or contact a mental health professional. The mission of the Evergreen Foundation is to improve access to and public awareness of quality prevention, treatment, and support services by the provider community to individuals and families with intellectual/developmental disabilities, behavioral health, and/or substance abuse needs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. To learn more about the Evergreen Foundation visit their web site at www.evergreenfoundationnc.org.