Bill (not his real name) sat morosely on the sofa and looked out the window. The birds were singing, neighborhood children were out playing, sunshine streamed through the window and all Bill could think about was wanting to die.
As the days grew longer, Bills inner world grew darker. His partner was very worried about his depression but kept silent because of the fear that mentioning suicide to Bill would give him the idea. What Bills partner did not know was that he was thinking about dying almost every minute of every day.
Suicide attempts and completions are higher in the spring. For someone who is experiencing a profound sense of hopelessness, the promise of warmer days and outdoor adventures means little. Spring brings signs of rebirth everywhere, and the realization had hit home for Bill. If he didnt feel good now that the gloom of winter was over, he never would.
Colorados suicide rate rose from 15.8 per 100,000 people in 2008 to 18.4 in 2009, according to the Office of Suicide Prevention. This ranks Colorado ninth among U.S. states for suicide deaths. In 2009, there was a significant increase in suicide deaths among those 25 to 44 years old and 85 and older, and each year Colorados suicide rate is about 40 percent higher than the overall U.S. rate.
Suicide can be preventable. Being able to recognize the indicators and knowing what resources are available prepares you to contribute to the wellness of your community. Many people continue to believe the myth that when you ask someone if they are thinking about killing themselves, you will give them the idea. In fact, asking the question names the elephant in the living room, and it allows the person an opportunity to talk about how what they are experiencing.
Indicators that someone may be thinking about suicide include giving away important possessions, withdrawal from daily activities, hopelessness, increased use of mood-altering substances, a previous suicide attempt, a current plan, a strong wish to die and hints that he or she may not be around in the future. A recent death or suicide of a family member or an anniversary of the event may also trigger thoughts of suicide. Additional considerations include increased impulsiveness, increased risk-taking behavior and a lack of connection to family and friends.
Show the person that you care; ask the question are you thinking about killing yourself? When someone expresses the intent to take his or her life, always take the person seriously. Axis Health System provides 24-hour emergency services, and a crisis therapist may be called at any time at 247-5245. If the person has a specific plan and the means to carry out this plan, do not leave him or her alone. Seek help immediately. Both La Plata County Sheriffs Office and the Durango Police Department have Crisis Intervention Teams of officers who have completed extensive training in crisis intervention and behavioral health disorders. In life-threatening situations, they can be dispatched to the scene to provide crisis intervention and to assess the need for more extensive intervention.
For additional information on suicide prevention and intervention, call the crisis team at Axis Health System at 247-5245.
Linda Lute, LAC, MAC, is the executive vice president of Clinical Operations at Axis Health System