On average, there are 132 suicides per day in the United States. This alone is a sobering statistic. Being in the Rocky Mountain area, High Country Behavioral Health’s service areas tend to remain higher than average in suicide rates. In fact, according to the CDC, both Wyoming and Idaho rank within the top 5 states in the nation with the highest suicide rates per capita.
With our current economy in the United States, and particularly in the Rocky Mountain Region, job losses are high - not only due to COVID, but also from the decline in the oil, gas and coal industries. For those people experiencing these job losses, financial and emotional worries can increase exponentially, creating a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and actions.
Studies have shown that losing a job can increase risk of suicide. The loss of a job causes not only financial stress and difficulty, but it also affects a person’s self-worth, purpose, and direction. It is not uncommon to feel that you have failed as a person, failed your family, community, etc. Going through the grief process with a job loss is expected. If underlying mental health conditions were present before the layoff, it is more likely that an individual will experience difficulty.
So, what should you do if you find yourself or a loved one out of work and you are not sure if you or they are at risk for suicide?
First, talk about it. Asking someone if they are suicidal does not increase risk in any way. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the things to look out for are changes in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.
Warning sign: Talk
If a person talks about:
Warning sign: Behavior
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
Warning sign: Mood
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
Second, work to be warm, open, approachable, validating, and nonjudgmental. It is helpful to get the individual to think about reasons that they have to live, including family, friends, pets, favorite hobbies, items, etc. I have heard it described to as looking through the end of a straw. When someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, their life scope shrinks. They are unable to think of all the other things in life that can make life worth living and they are only focused on getting out of their current dilemma and pain. We can help by working with them to widen their life scope.
Third, get yourself or your loved one connected to professional help. Trying to handle suicide on your own can sometimes make matters worse. Professionals are there to offer help, support, encouragement, resources, and hope. High Country Behavioral Health offers Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), in addition to other treatment modalities, which has shown effective in reducing suicidal thoughts and actions by increasing insight, coping and overall working to create a life worth living.
If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out. You may call your closest HCBH office, your local dispatch or 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There is help and there is hope. You are not alone.