Editorial: Focusing on Suicide Prevention

Editorial: Focusing on Suicide Prevention

Help is a phone call away.

This week is Suicide Prevention Week. Preventing suicide means paying attention to mental health and treating depression, and there is no better time to focus on that than the first week of school.

In 2013, more than 41,000 people ended their own lives in the United States, more than 21,000 with firearms. (Compare to the number of murders in 2013, 16,120.) In 2013, more than 800,000 people were treated in U.S. emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries. More than a million adults report making a suicide attempt each year, while many more people struggle with thoughts of suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans overall and the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults aged 15-29. More than half of suicides involve firearms.

In 2013, 1,047 Virginians died by suicide, with white males accounting for 716 of those deaths. The Southside region had the highest suicide rate at 19.3 per 100,000 in 2013, while the Northern region had the lowest rate at 10.1 deaths. (By comparison, there were 383 homicides in Virginia in 2013.)

Two groups particularly at risk are youth and the elderly. Data from the Virginia Department of Health indicates that rates of suicide in Virginia were higher for older people than youth — but suicide is a leading cause of death for young people.

One strategy to prevent suicide is to learn about the warning signs of suicide, which can include individuals talking about wanting to hurt themselves, increasing substance use, and having changes in their mood, diet, or sleeping patterns, according to the CDC. When these warning signs appear, quickly connecting the person to supportive services is critical. Promoting opportunities and settings that strengthen connections among people, families, and communities is another suicide prevention goal.

Exhibiting any of the signs listed below is reason for an immediate call to the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). If you cannot reach someone on this line, go to an emergency room, make sure you or your loved one is not alone until professional help arrives and remove all firearms, sharp objects, drugs, alcohol and other things that could be used in a suicide attempt.

  • Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself.

  • Talking or writing about suicide or death.

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

  • Talking about being a burden to others and how the world would be better off without him/her.

  • Talking about being trapped or in unbearable pain.

  • Complete withdrawal.

  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

  • Displaying extreme mood swings and acting recklessly.

  • Looking for ways to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining access to firearms, pills, or other means to kill oneself.

  • Giving away prized possessions and other personal things; tying up loose ends.

See http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures


In last week’s editorial (“How to Vote; It Matters,” Sept. 2, 2015), a list of offices up for election in Fairfax County failed to mention school board races. Here is the corrected text:

Each voter in Fairfax County will vote a ballot with choices in one State Senate district, one House of Delegates district, Clerk of the Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sheriff, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, District member of the Board of Supervisors, District member of the School Board, School Board At-large (vote for three), Soil and Water Conservation Board (vote for Three), School Bond for $310 million, Public Safety Bond for $151 million. See http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/upcoming.htm