September is National Suicide Prevention Month

  • Published
  • By Capt. Louis Pagano
  • 78th MDG Clinical Psychologist and Suicide Prevention manager

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month, and in order to promote wellness amongst the community, the 78th Medical Group wanted to review frequently asked questions about suicide for our readers. 

Q. Does asking about suicidal thoughts and behavior lead to an increase in suicidal thoughts and behavior? 

A. No, it doesn’t. In general, both research and clinical experience indicate the majority of those who struggle with suicidal thoughts and behavior actually feel relieved about disclosing what’s going on. Remember the A.C.E. model – Ask, Care and Escort. 

Q. Is the restriction of access to means of suicide such as guns, drugs or sharp objects, effective? 

A. Yes. There are a number of examples that demonstrate how restricting access to that type of item is effective. So for example, if you are aware of a friend or coworker who is having thoughts of suicide, ask if they’ve considered over-dosing and if someone can watch over their medications for the time being. As for firearms, they’re one of the most common causes of suicide in America.

There’s an unmistakable association between the possession of firearms in a home and an increased risk of ending one’s life by suicide. Specific things you can do to minimize this risk are storing the firearm in a locked location, storing it unloaded and ensuring ammunition is locked up separately from the firearm. 

Q. If someone is depressed does that mean    they will commit suicide? 

A. In general, diagnosed mental health disorders are associated with an elevated risk of suicide. There are some exceptions, such as dementia. Studies have shown that there’s about a 3.5 percent life-time risk of death by suicide associated with a diagnosis of major depression.

Follow-up studies have shown that about two-thirds of those who die by suicide had depressive symptoms at the time of death. If you notice a change in someone – lowered mood, feelings of hopelessness, isolation – not only is it OK to ask about thoughts of suicide, it’s encouraged. 

Q. Is suicide a problem in other countries? How does it differ between them? 

A. About 1 million people worldwide die from suicide each year, about 16 per 100,000, according to the World Health Organization.

Generally speaking, more people die annually by suicide than in wars.  Deaths from suicide may even be greater than death by motor vehicle accidents in some locations.

Countries in the Baltic States – Lithuania, Hungary – typically have higher rates than Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Turkey.  Common methods of ending a life by suicide also differ between countries.

In the U.S. specifically, firearms, hanging and poisoning with drugs are the most common methods. 

Q. What are protective factors for suicide risk?  

A. Protective factors are aspects of our lives that protect us from or lessen the impact of suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Some important protective factors that boost our resiliency are: Effective healthcare for mental and physical health disorders, easy access to a variety of clinical services, problem solving skills, specific cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs that discourage suicide, sobriety and social support. 

Q. Who can I contact for help if I’m struggling with thoughts of suicide or have a friend who is? 

A.  There are a number of helping agencies on base that can provide support and guidance when it comes to suicidal thoughts for you or a friend.

The 78 MDG’s Mental Health, ADAPT, and Family Advocacy clinics are open to all active duty service members and can be reached at 478-327-8398.  

If you’re an active duty service member, dependent or spouse you can use the Behavioral Health Optimization Program in primary care (call central appointments to book an appointment at 478-327-7850).  

The chapel can be reached at 478-926-2821. If you’re not on base, you can call your local police station, dial 9-1-1 or go to a nearby emergency room.  

Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached anytime at 1-800-273-8255 and Military One Source can be reached at 1-800-342-9647.