Closing our eyes to suicide won't make problem disappear

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Back in the days when our media options were limited, it was easier to get a message across.

When we got all our news from a newspaper a two, a handful of television channels or a favorite radio station, it was impossible to avoid stories we didn’t like, but needed to hear.

Today, with unlimited sources of information, accurate or otherwise, we can focus on messages that reinforce our own beliefs and prejudices.

But some realities can’t be avoided, some stories we need to hear for our own good, and like it or not, we’re responsible for our reaction.

Today’s World Suicide Prevention Day is one of the realities we have to face.

Turn as many pages or channels, click whatever links you like, and sooner or later, despite your best efforts to avoid the issue, the suicide of a friend, relative or acquaintance is going to intrude on your self-created “reality.”

“We can no longer bury our heads in the sand about suicide in our communities. Suicide can happen to anyone regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status,” said Wendy Shifflet, Program Therapist at Tri Valley Health Systems.

Tri Valley’s Senior Life Solutions is working to raise awareness during September’s National Suicide Prevention and Awareness month.

The effort is an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of older adults suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression often related to aging.

Trained staff use standardized, evidence-based tools for screening patients at risk of suicide, and help the patient create a plan to prevent future suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts.

Patients meet up to three times a week in a supportive, encouraging group setting, including a board-certified psychiatrist, licensed social workers, a registered nurse and other healthcare professionals.

More information is available at (308) 697-1299.

Suicide affects more than seniors, however. It is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age, the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54, and the eighth leading cause among people 55 to 64 years of age.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the United States, responsible for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016, approximately one every 12 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an average of 129 deaths by suicide occur per day, and there are an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts per year.

Often lost in the gun debate is the fact that the person most likely to be killed by a gun is the owner. Two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides, and many mass shooters have suicide or suicide-by-cop in mind when they start their rampage.

Don’t flip the channel, turn the page or click a different link if the subject of suicide comes up.

If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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