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Understanding the risk factors for suicide

Dec 29, 2018 04:30PM
By Marla Brannum

Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Great greetings for many, but it can be a very difficult time for others. The holidays can be a difficult time of year for those who struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, other mental health problems or have experienced a loss, especially from suicide. Statistics show that suicide is a significant public health problem. But statistics don’t tell the whole story of those impacted by suicide. The challenge is that there isn’t just one cause for suicide or clear answers on how we can help.

Utah has higher average suicide rates than the national average, but no one knows why. Let’s start by discussing who is affected. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Utahn’s ages 10 to 24. Men have higher suicide rates than women; almost 3 times the rate. In fact, Utah’s highest rates of suicide are not our youth, but men ages 45-54, and 75 and older. This article can’t explain all the possible reasons for these rates but we can discuss what is being done and how we can help.

With suicide prevention, it’s important to understand risk factors and protective factors. One of the protective factors we have is a strong family and/or community connection. You can help by reaching out to those around you and help them recognize their value to you, their family, and the community. Additionally, we need to learn to recognize the warning signs for those at risk of suicide. These could be verbal comments, how they act, or finding themselves in difficult situations. The more warning signs you observe, the higher the risk and the more help they need. But what are these signs? And how do you recognize them? Some obvious signs are threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, exploring ways to kill him/herself, and talking or writing about death, dying or suicide. There are other signs that may be more subtle.

If you want to know about suicide prevention, or do more to help, there are proven programs available. In Utah County, a suicide prevention program called Q.P.R. is available for free. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer. In this free one-hour workshop, participants are taught to be “gatekeepers” by learning how to help others struggling with suicidal thoughts. Participants are taught the warning signs to look for of someone in crisis and how they can help. Oftentimes, those in crisis won’t ask for help because they don’t think anything can help. In this QPR workshop, you will leave with knowledge and tools to help you know how to help others. If you are interested in a free workshop, you can contact Marla Brannum at the Utah County Health Department at 801-851-7513.

During the holidays, remember to take care of yourself. You can’t help others if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, stay hydrated, and try to get in some exercise to help reduce your stress. Understand that, sometimes this time of year can be stressful and allow for that. Try to recognize your limits and communicate your needs. Friends and family may want to help, but do not know what you need.

If you are struggling, please reach out to one of the free help lines. The SafeUT app is available 24/7 and available to anyone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 (800-273-talk). Utah County’s crisis line is 801-373-7393.