Suicide prevention concerns us all

By Staci Knox

In a great post-fight interview, professional fighter Paddy Pimblett recently opened about the loss of a friend by suicide.

“I woke up Friday morning at 4 a.m. with a message that a friend of mine back home had committed suicide,” Pimblett said.

“There’s a stigma in this world that men can’t talk about. Listen, if you’re a man and you’ve got weight on your shoulders and you think the only way to solve this is to kill yourself, please talk to someone. Talk to anyone,” Pimblett pleaded.

Pimblett’s comments underscore the need for everyone to be mindful of the mental health of loved ones. Health care providers also continue to try to reduce the mental health crisis across the country. And the numbers make the point clear:

  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five adults suffers from a mental illness.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people and, before the COVID-19 pandemic, was the 10e– leading cause of death among all Americans.
  • The CDC says that in 2020, someone committed suicide about once every 11 minutes on average.
  • The Suicide Lifeline indicates that for every person who commits suicide each year, 316 people seriously consider it.
  • The lifeline has answered more than 20 million calls since its launch in 2005, and it’s mostly seen year-over-year call growth. In 2005, Lifeline received approximately 50,000 applications. In 2020, there were nearly 2.4 million calls, a record.

The numbers match what Staci Knox and her staff are seeing at OSF HealthCare in Alton, Illinois — an increase in people seeking help. Some have long suffered in silence. Knox, the manager of psychological services at OSF in Alton, says the average time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis is 11 years.

“You think about our culture, it’s really an admirable trait to be tough and just cheer up and get by,” Knox says. “It’s not easy to experience symptoms and then be able to identify that they’re not fleeting.”

“You think about our culture, it’s really an admirable trait to be tough and just cheer up and get through it. It’s not easy to experience symptoms and then to be able to identify that they are not fleeting. – Staci Knox, manager of psychological services at OSF HealthCare in Alton, Illinois

Road signs

Knox and her staff see a wide range of patients — from children as young as six to some people well into their 90s. She says the warning signs of suicide vary by age.

For adults: “They have trouble getting out of bed. They struggle not to stop working. At work, they find it difficult not to be criticized for their irritability or the conflicts that arise in the workplace. In their family life, they may have difficulties in their relationships. They can isolate themselves,” Knox says.

Some other signs in adults can be difficult to spot. For example, a big shopping spree can feel like a spending spree. But for a suicidal person, they can spend all their money because they know they can’t take it with them.

For children, Knox says their world comes down to school, family and friends. So many of the warning signs are similar but on a smaller scale: no interest in school, acting out at school, and isolation from friends and family. Children may also start using drugs or alcohol.

Take care of yourself on a daily basis

Whether you’re receiving mental health treatment or not, Knox highlights some daily tasks to stay grounded: eat healthy, get enough sleep, take time to breathe deeply, and practice your faith.

“Stretching and keeping our bodies moving,” adds Knox. “Depending on your physical limitations, this could be stretching out in a chair or getting out into nature and hiking.”

A new tool

From July 16e, 9-8-8 will be the numbers to dial to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are facing a mental or behavioral health issue, you can call or text 9-8-8 to be connected with a trained counselor who is part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The counselors you talk to are stationed at crisis centers across the country, so they’re likely familiar with the specific resources and treatments available in your area. These could include outpatient advice, inpatient (home) care, medication or a combination.

The 9-8-8 lifeline is confidential, free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But like any other hotline, there may be a wait. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger or needs medical attention, dial 9-1-1. You can always talk to your primary care provider about mental and behavioral health resources. In fact, Knox says your provider should be able to tell if your symptoms are indeed mental health-related, if it’s a physical issue disguised as a mental issue, or if it’s a bit of both.

This article originally appeared on OSF HealthCare.