Take Control: Suicide Awareness

By Lt. Libby Peachey, mental health department psychology staff and suicide prevention coordinator, Naval Hospital Jacksonville

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In recognition of Suicide Awareness Month, I want to underscore the importance and raise awareness of suicide, the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S.—according to Centers for Disease Control.

Suicide is a complex behavioral response to stress, illness, isolation and substance abuse. A combination of individual, relational, community and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. These can range from family and marital discord, financial issues, depression or other mental health concerns, suicidal ideation or prior suicide attempts, impulsive behaviors, substance abuse, lack of sleep or purposelessness in life. Risk is also associated with changes in brain chemicals that are frequently brought about by alcohol and drug abuse.

Warning signs include thoughts or comments about suicide, substance abuse, purposelessness, anxiety, feeling trapped or hopeless, withdrawal, anger, recklessness and mood changes.

Suicidal behavior is not specific to gender, race or age, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. However, statistics do show that women attempt suicide two to three times more frequent than men, but men fatally wound themselves at four times the rate of women.

The 45- to 54-year-old age group possesses the highest suicide rate of any other age group in the U.S., according to Suicide Prevention Resource Center data. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 25- to 34-year olds and the third leading cause among 15- to 24-year olds in the U.S. Although older adults engage in suicide attempts less than those in other age groups, they have a higher rate of death. Statistics show that there is one estimated suicide for every four attempted, for those over the age of 65 compared to one out of every 100-200 attempts among youth and young adults ages 15-24.

In terms of ethnicity, suicide is twice as likely among non-Hispanic whites and American Indians as among Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Effective treatments and interventions are available for depression, situational stressors and other health problems that are risk factors for suicide. Please see your primary care manager (PCM), chaplain, or mental health provider to find out what options are available to you.

Retirees and family members may call Value Options at 800-700-8646 for care in the TRICARE network. Resources are also available at Veterans Crisis Line, which offers a hotline 800-273-TALK (8255), confidential online chat and text. Help is available 24/7.

For someone in immediate danger, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911. Remember to ACT (ASK-CARE-TREAT). ASK if someone is depressed and if they are thinking about suicide. Let them know you CARE. Get them assistance (TREATment) as soon as possible.

Suicide Prevention in the Navy is an all hands evolution, all the time. Silence kills. Speak out and save a life.