Every minute of every day, someone attempts suicide. The United States reported 38,364 suicides in 2010, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), making it the 10th leading cause of death. In fact that year, someone died by suicide once every 13.7 minutes.
In an effort to help better understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain caused by it, the AFSP, the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide, strives to help bring people together in communities to advocate, educate and support suicide research. One of these ways is through the Out of the Darkness Walk, AFSP's signature fund-raising campaign.
The Upper Ohio Valley Region AFSP will hold its annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Grand Vue Park in Moundsville. This walk brings together family, friends, colleagues and supporters every fall for a three to five mile walk through the community. Registration is free, and you can register for the walk by visiting www.outofthedarkness.org and searching for a walk near you. Typing in "Moundsville" will bring you to the local walk registration page.
The Upper Ohio Valley Region American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will hold its annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Grand Vue Park in Moundsville. This walk brings together family, friends, colleagues and supporters every fall for a three to five mile walk through the community. Last year, the walk raised nearly $20,000 for helping the AFSP?advocate, educate and support suicide research.
Out of the Darkness Community Walk chairperson Kelly Delaney, right, said the walk is open to everyone, especially those who have been directly and indirectly touched by suicide or mental illness. Delaney is pictured with walk co-chairperson Lacey Shanks.
Kelly Delaney of Wheeling, walk chairperson, said the walk is open to everyone. "The walk is open to anyone and everyone. To those who have been directly and indirectly touched by suicide . . . to those who have been directly or indirectly touched by mental illness . . . to those who simply want to support those affected by suicide and mental illness."
This is the second year for the the Ohio Valley walk. Last year, Delaney said the walk raised nearly $20,000. This year, she hopes to raise $35,000. "We have raised approximately $6,500 this year so far," she added.
According to Delaney, about half of the money raised can be used for the implementation of local AFSP programs and also to assist in the development of a local AFSP chapter. "Our goal is to form a local chapter in the next three to five years," said Delaney. Net proceeds from the Upper Ohio Valley Out of the Darkness Community walk benefit the AFSP.
WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.
Talking about wanting to
Looking for a way to kill
Talking about feeling
hopeless or having no
Talking about feeling
trapped or in unbearable
Talking about being a
burden to others
Increasing the use of
alcohol or drugs
Acting anxious, agitated
Sleeping too little or too
Withdrawing or feeling
Showing rage or talking
about seeking revenge
Displaying extreme mood
WHAT TO DO
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of
Do not leave the person
Remove any firearms,
alcohol, drugs or sharp
objects that could be used
in a suicide attempt
Call the U.S. National
Take the person to an
emergency room or seek
help from a medical
or mental health
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
This list is courtesy of "Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide," compiled by a group of international suicide prevention organizations, public health organizations, and internet safety experts have collaborated with working journalists, news organizations and schools of journalism.
Delaney became involved with the AFSP after her 18-year-old son died by suicide in March 2012. "I felt compelled to do something to help, to make a difference," Delaney said.
Suicide is a complicated act. It cannot be minimized or explained away by simply answering the question, "Why?" Research has indicated that at least 90 percent of all people who died by suicide were suffering from a mental illness at the time, most often depression, according to the AFSP.
"It is human nature to seek a 'why' to understand, but with suicide the whys are not known," Delaney explained. "We are quick to assign a reason, like a break-up or the loss of a job, but the truth of the matter is that 90 percent of those that die by suicide had a diagnosable and treatable mental illness at the time of death - 90 percent!" She added that her son battled depression and bi-polar disorder.
Delaney went on to explain that the reasons behind suicide are complicated and deep and are often not understood. "This is the primary reason why I want to help the AFSP, so more research can be done on suicide and prevention of suicide."
Mental disorders can prevent a person from thinking clearly about a situation and how to solve his or her problems. "Sometimes these disorders are not identified or noticed; in other cases, a person with a disorder will show obvious symptoms or signs," Delaney said.
The AFSP lists conditions that may increase a person's chance to take his or her life. These include: mental disorders such as depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, alcohol or substance abuse or dependency, psychotic disorders, anti-social disorders, anxiety disorders and impulsivity and aggression; previous suicide attempt; family history of attempted suicide; and a serious medical condition or pain. It is important to note that the majority of those with mental disorders or other suicide risk factors do not engage in suicidal behavior.
Environmental factors can also increase suicide risk, such as a high stress life event like the death of a loved one, loss of job or trouble with the law, and prolonged stress due to adversities like unemployment, relationship problems, bullying or harassment. Again, the AFSP notes that these factors alone do not usually increase the suicide risk for those who are not already vulnerable due to a pre-existing mental disorder. However, repeated exposure to stressful events can lead to depression, anxiety or other factors that can then in turn increase the risk for suicide.
Helping people cope with negative life events can provide a protective factor for suicide, meaning it can help decrease a person's suicide risk. These protective factors include receiving effective mental health care; fostering positive connections to family, friends, community and social institutions like marriage or religion; and building skills and abilities to solve problems. Protective factors have not been researched as much as suicide risks, but giving people the ability to cope and solve problems means a person is less likely to become depressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
While the factors listed above are more long term risk factors, there are several warning signs that indicate a more immediate suicide risk. The AFSP states that much of the time, people will show one or more of these warning signs before taking action: talking about wanting to die; looking for a way to kill themselves; having a specific suicide plan; feeling hopeless or having no reason to live; feeling trapped, desperate or wanting to escape; feeling like a burden to others; feeling humiliated; having extreme anxiety or panic attacks; losing interest in things once enjoyable; insomnia; becoming socially isolated; acting irritable or agitated; and showing rage or seeking revenge for something that may or may not have happened.
If you suspect someone may be at risk for suicide or is showing any of the warning signs, it is important to act now. Always take the person's threat seriously. In fact, according to the AFSP, 50 to 75 percent of all people who attempt suicide tell someone first.
Next, ask questions. Tell the person you're concerned about them by specifically mentioning what they said or did to cause you concern. It's OK to ask whether or not they are considering suicide and if they have a plan. The AFSP states that these questions will not push the person toward suicide if they were not thinking about it. Also ask if they are seeing a doctor or taking medicine so the person treating them can be contacted. Most importantly, let them know you care, that they are not alone and that they can get help. Avoid arguing, pleading or preaching to them.
Encourage professional help. Most people considering suicide feel like they can't be helped. Offer to help them schedule an appointment with a professional and go with them to the appointment, if they will let you.
Finally, take action. Do not leave the person alone, and remove anything from the area that could be used for suicide. Take the person to walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital or the emergency room. If these options are not available, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is always available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Delaney also encourages use of the suicide hotline when action is necessary. "Trained and skilled counselors are available to direct and assist anyone who is suicidal or anyone who feels he or she is in crisis," she explained. "Whether it is substance abuse, economic worries, relationship or family problems, illness, depression, mental illness, physical illness and even loneliness, someone is always available to listen. You are never alone.
"You may also call the hotline if you are helping someone who is threatening suicide," Delaney added. "If you don't know what to do or who to call, the national hotline is ALWAYS the best and first line of defense."
Delaney continued, "If you feel suicidal, please call a friend, call a family member, call the hotline, get to an emergency room immediately. Suicide is a complicated issue, and it is almost always the result of a mental illness, usually depression, but with treatment, depression is almost always treatable."
Most importantly, follow up with the person you were concerned about. Make sure they take their prescribed medication if they were given any and that they continue to follow up with a professional. Help them understand that it might take time to find the right combination of medicine and therapy. Show encouragement and support until the suicide crisis has passed.
In 2012, more than 110,000 walkers participated in Out of the Darkness Community walks across the nation, raising more than $8.3 million for local and national suicide prevention programs. By participating in the walk on Oct. 12 in Moundsville, you can become a part of the suicide prevention and research.
"One thing is certain - there are treatments that can help," Delaney stated. "Suicide should never, ever be an option."
To learn more about AFSP's mission, research and programs visit www.afsp.org. To learn more about the walk or to register for free, visit www.outofthedarkness.org and searching for a walk near you. Typing in "Moundsville" will bring you to the local walk registration page. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).