Pinnacle Pointe: Suicide Prevention Starts With Knowing the Warning Signs

 

Suicide is a complex phenomenon that affects every neighborhood, race, gender and age group. Prevention is equally complicated, as no two people are the same insofar as what plants the idea in their mind or ultimately forces their hand.

Parents should develop a comfort level talking to their children about issues such as mental health, depression and suicide and these talks need to occur at an early age.

“I’ve been here for 11 years and it used to be few and far between that we would receive a kid 10 or under who had any type of serious ideation about suicide,” says Angelica Brown, director of clinical services for Pinnacle Pointe Behavioral Healthcare in Little Rock. “That’s not the case anymore. It still catches me off guard, but I hear more and more cases where the child may be between 8 and 10 years old.”

While there is no playbook when it comes to suicide ideations, intensely disruptive life experiences often play a significant role. Experiencing a significant loss, breakup or failure to make a team or get into a particular school can all start a young person’s thought process toward suicide. Depression, serious illness or medication that alters mood and behavior as well as being exposed to bullying or the suicidal behaviors of a friend, peer or celebrity can also be triggers.

“We’re trained to help the patient understand, ‘do you really want to end it or do you really need a situation to clear up?’” says Brown. “You have a few who really would rather be dead but for the majority, it is the situation they are in.”

Red-flag behaviors include giving away possessions, making direct or veiled statements about killing oneself, saying goodbye, talking or writing about death and dying and feeling trapped or hopeless. Increased risk-taking, drug abuse or becoming withdrawn and isolated can also be warning signs.

“Pay particular attention to periods when they’ve had those types of thoughts or talked about having those thoughts and then they’re completely fine and everything’s wonderful,” Brown says. “It’s been shown that’s when they’ve already made the decision.”

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