Editorial: Take One Action to Prevent Suicide

Editorial: Take One Action to Prevent Suicide

Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 5-13, #MindsMatter

As school begins, we are accustomed to safety warnings. Slow down driving, watch for students along the roads, near schools and perhaps behaving unpredictably near intersections. Buckle seat belts. Wear bicycle helmets. Avoid distracted driving.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between 10 and 24 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with 4,600 deaths a year, and 157,000 youth receiving emergency medical care for self-inflicted injuries. Overall, more than 42,000 Americans die by suicide each year.

Appropriately, Suicide Prevention Week is next week, Sept. 5-13, and the Connection is partnering with PRS CrisisLink to raise awareness about how to prevent suicide.

Risk factors for a suicide attempt include a history of depression or other mental illness, a history of previous suicide attempts, alcohol or drug abuse, stressful life event or loss, easy access to lethal methods (firearms are the leading method of youth suicide), exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, and a family history of suicide. Young people who are LGBTQ are at higher risk.

Crisis Link was founded by volunteers in 1969 as the Northern Virginia Hotline, beginning as an evening hotline for Arlington teens. Within a year, hotline services were expanded to 24 hours a day to provide skilled, compassionate listening for people of all ages. The organization began serving individuals in crisis throughout the entire metropolitan Washington, D.C. region in 1970. In August of 2014, CrisisLink merged with PRS, Inc. Now named PRS CrisisLink, the program is able to provide services to more individuals than ever before.

In Fairfax County, where several high schools have mourned the suicide deaths of students, online interactive training is available to everyone about how to talk to a young person who might be depressed or considering suicide.

Fairfax County’s Youth Suicide Prevention Training includes free online simulations that prepare educators and other adults to recognize when a young person is exhibiting signs of psychological distress, and to talk with the young person to be able to connect them with appropriate support. Also available is a free online simulation for high school students to practice how to talk to a friend struggling with depression or psychological distress. Access to these programs is available by visiting www.fairfaxcounty.gov/csb/at-risk

We also can’t let the discussion on gun violence add to the stigma of mental health illness. People with mental health issues are far more likely to be victims of violence that to perpetrate it. When the debate turns to a push and pull between advocating for gun control vs. advocating for broad suspicion of people with mental health concerns, the results are not benign.

We have to bring discussion of depression and other psychological distress into the light, and we must push back against the stigma that keeps many from getting life-saving help.

— Mary Kimm


International Overdose Awareness Day: Aug. 31

In observance of worldwide Overdose Awareness Day, the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) reminds all that every drug overdose is a preventable tragedy. CSB partners with recovery groups, prevention partners and the community to share information about substance use and to provide screening, treatment, and recovery programs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more people in the United States died from drug overdose in 2014 than in any other year on record. Deaths from overdose are up among men and women, all races and ages. Most of these overdoses were the result of opioids, including heroin and prescription pain medications.

Fairfax County residents have not been spared. As of May 2016, Fairfax County’s Emergency Medical Services was reporting more than 10 patient contacts per month that were suspected overdoses of heroin or other opioids. Fairfax County police reported that in 2015 there were 77 heroin overdoses in the county, 12 of which were fatal.

Help, treatment and recovery options are available. CSB clinicians who specialize in substance use disorders, in conjunction with the Neighborhood and Community Services Prevention Unit, have created two new informational fliers that are now posted online. One flier describes different types of treatment available for opioid addiction. The other flier explains how to recognize signs of overdose and what to do if someone overdoses.

Anyone can enroll in CSB’s free REVIVE! course and learn how to administer naloxone, a life-saving medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdose. CSB staff trained more than 640 people in 2016, and more trainings are scheduled throughout the fall.

Help Available

CrisisLink Regional Hotline: 703-527-4077

CrisisLink Regional Textline: Text CONNECT to 85511

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK