National Suicide Prevention Week, which highlights efforts to prevent suicide, is this week through Saturday. Throughout the United States, there are communities like ours that help educate the public about how to recognize symptoms of suicidal behavior in our friends, co-workers and family members.
We strive to give people resources to learn more about suicidal behaviors and what we can do to help prevent this action from occurring. Yet the truth is, many people do not want to talk about suicide or do not think it affects them.
Recently, as I was selling tickets for our local Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide program fundraiser, I asked many people to purchase a ticket to help support suicide prevention efforts in Steamboat Springs.
The responses varied from not acknowledging my presence to saying, "I will be out of town" or "I am not interested." Many people do not want to acknowledge that there is a problem or learn more until it directly affects them.
Fortunately, a few people took the time to listen and ask me questions about what they could do. My hope is that more people will want to learn about suicide prevention before it becomes too late.
Suicide affects everyone. According to national statistics, suicide is the ninth-leading cause of death annually. The high number of suicides occurring in Steamboat Springs in recent years is a concern.
Individuals who commit suicide span a variety of ages, genders, geographic locations, and socio-economic statuses. What are the symptoms of suicide, and how can you get help if you or someone you care about is showing the signs of suicidal ideation?
Many people who commit suicide may feel hopeless and have the "typical" symptoms of depression. Others may not seem depressed but will begin to socially isolate themselves by pulling away from family and friends.
Other signs to look out for in a possibly suicidal person include any observed change in mood, behavior, activities, sleeping and eating. The individual may show signs of irritability or expressed feelings of hopelessness/helplessness and diminished interest in activities.
The individual may have gone through a traumatic event such as a significant death, parental relationship restriction/termination or abandonment, loss of a job or financial setback. He or she may show an increase in statements about death or dying.
The individual may begin giving away belongings or engaging in destructive behaviors such as increased use of drugs or alcohol or cutting on themselves.
Treatment for depression and suicidal thoughts often is a combination of medications and counseling services. The earlier we begin treating the symptoms, the more manageable the negative emotions can feel.
If you begin to feel some of the symptoms mentioned above, there are some lifestyle changes such as eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising that are helpful steps to counteract depression symptoms.
The excess use of alcohol and illegal drugs also can contribute to feelings of depression and often mask the underlying problem.
If you find that these lifestyle changes do not work, please seek professional help with a counselor.
You are not alone, and there is help available in our community. Suicide is not the answer to solving your problems.
John Fleeker, LMFT, is the Routt and Jackson County director for Steamboat Mental Health, a subdivision of Colorado West Regional Mental Health.