Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the October 6, 2017 issues of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found the highest suicide rates across the country in 2013-2015 were in rural counties. While the overall suicide rate was just under 14 deaths per 100,000 people, in rural counties the rate was almost 20 deaths per 100,000 people.
For the full report: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/ss/ss6618a1.htm?s_cid=ss6618a1_w
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Consistent with the findings in the CDC report above, suicide rates in New Jersey are highest in three rural counties – Salem County at 15.3 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by 14.8 in Sussex County and 13.5 in Cape May County.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and has been among the top causes continuously since 1975. Suicide is a preventable cause of death and as such, it behooves us all of us to know the risk factors, warning signs and actions to take to prevent a death. This is especially important for those of us who live in a rural area.
There are many factors that increase the risk of suicide. Listed below are those identified by the Centers for Disease and Prevention:
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
- History of alcohol or drug abuse
- History of violence
- Depression or other mental illnesses
- Significant stressful life events (job loss, death of relative, divorce, etc.)
- Access to lethal methods
In addition to the risk factors, knowing the warning signs of suicide especially in someone with an increased risk, goes a long way to getting the person help. The following are common warning signs to look and listen for compiled from the Mayo Clinic and the American Association of Suicidology:
Talking about suicide.
Listen for statements such as: "I'm going to kill myself," "I wish I were dead," "I wish I hadn't been born," “Everyone would be better off if I were dead.”
Getting the means together
Watch for means gathering behaviors such as: collecting pills, researching lethal doses, buying a gun.
Beware of wanting to be alone and isolation from social contact
Watch for mood changes such as being emotionally high or happy one day and sad, discouraged or depressed, the next
Preoccupation with death, dying or violence
Be aware of conversations focused on death or dying
Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
Listen for comments about not having a way out of a situation or not seeing any way for a situation to improve
Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
Watch for an increase use of drugs or alcohol.
Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
Observe changes in daily routines and behaviors - eating more or less, sleeping more or less, etc.
Engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors
Watch for risk taking behaviors out of the norm for the person - such as using drugs or driving recklessly, running in front of trucks, trains.
Giving away belongings
Watch for prized possessions being given away, things being cleaned out
Getting affairs in order
Watch for behaviors related to updating wills, making final arrangements, closing accounts when there is no other logical explanation for doing this
Be aware of the need to visit people as if they won't be seen again
Developing personality changes
Watch for anxiousness or agitation, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
The American Association of Suicidology’s uses a pneumonic for remembering the warning signs – IS PATH WARM?
S Substance Abuse
M Mood Changes
Someone is in imminent danger of suicide if he/she:
Threatens to hurt or kill him or herself
Talks about wanting to hurt or kill him or herself
Looks for ways to kill him/herself – pursues getting the means
Talks or writes about death, dying or suicide when these actions would be out of the ordinary
If someone you know is in imminent danger, below are some actions to take:
1. Stay with the person – don’t leave him or her alone
2. CALL 911
3. Encourage him or her to talk
4. Listen without judgement and avoid challenging what is being said.
Add the following National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number to your phone contacts:
For more information
American Association of Suicidology
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health