This week, social service agencies are asking you to pay close attention to gloomy friends: it’s National Suicide Prevention Week.
Ann Jenkins with the Family & Children’s Services Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services program says to watch for some common warning signs: “people talking about death or suicide, saying things like, ‘You’ll be better off when I’m gone, you won’t have to worry about me.’ It can also be them actually purchasing a firearm or the means to kill themselves.”
Other signs include engaging in dangerous activities, seemingly without thinking, increasing drug or alcohol abuse, giving away prized possessions, expressing no reason for living, or displaying extreme mood swings, including suddenly acting happier and calmer.
Jenkins says one of the best ways to help prevent suicide is by directly asking a person whether they’re considering it.
“Most people are very afraid to do that, because they think that will plant the idea in someone’s mind,” she said. “But what we know as professionals is asking them about it relieves them, and they feel like someone understands.”
That can be a difficult conversation to have, so for those unwilling to attempt it, COPES operates a 24-hour hotline that people can call if they suspect suicidal tendencies in their friends.
That number, (918) 744-4800, is also available to individuals having suicidal thoughts themselves.
Jenkins says groups more at risk of suicide include people who have just ended a relationship and white men over the age of 65.
“And teenagers are more at risk,” she said, “because they have a higher impulsivity than adults do a lot of times.”
She says COPES finds that all socioeconomic groups tend to exhibit the same level of risk.
“Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States,” Jenkins said, “with one occurring every 14 minutes.”
Over the last year, COPES has responded to 6,928 calls, with 37 percent of those being suicidal callers.