(RxWiki News) Suicide is not an easy topic to bring up. It can be such a difficult subject that people who are concerned about a loved one's risk for suicide often don't know where to begin.
To make the discussion a little easier by bringing it to the forefront, National Suicide Prevention Week is being recognized September 8 through September 14.
According to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), the organizing group behind the week's events, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US. AAS is calling for awareness of these rates and more open discussion about the issue.
"Call a mental health professional if a loved one is at risk of suicide. "
According to the latest available data from AAS, there were 38,364 suicides in the US in 2010, a figure which amounts to 105.1 suicides every day. The rate of US suicides in 2010 represented a slight (3 percent) increase from the previous year.
AAS reported that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the US, and is the third leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24.
This means that whether or not suicide is being discussed widely, it is affecting large numbers of Americans, leading AAS to assert that "suicide prevention is everyone's business."
"An estimated 4.73 million Americans are survivors of suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one," reported AAS.
So what are the warning signs that may help people identify potential suicide victims before it is too late?
According to AAS, warning signs can include hopelessness, withdrawing from friends, family and society, increased alcohol or drug use, dramatic mood changes, agitation or anxiety, feeling trapped, rage, being either unable to sleep or sleeping all the time and a sense of having no purpose in life.
Signs for a more acute or critical risk might include threatening to or talking about hurting or killing themselves, seeking access to firearms or pills or talking or writing about death, dying and suicide in a way that seems out of the ordinary.
When witnessing these warning signs, AAS suggested that the concerned party contact a mental health professional for advice and assistance. The more acute the warning sign, the more quickly they should act.
In an interview with dailyRx News, Peter Strong, PhD, Professional Psychotherapist of the Boulder Center for Mindfulness Therapy in Colorado, stressed the importance of maintaining contact and presence when witnessing these warning signs.
"One of the classic signs of a person at risk of self-harm is sustained physical and emotional withdrawal. The individual becomes unavailable and uncommunicative. This withdrawal reaction is very common in chronic depression and one of the first signs to look for," explained Dr. Strong.
"It is so easy for such a person to literally 'vanish' from our awareness, so it is so important to maintain regular contact with the individual even if he or she says everything is fine," said Dr. Strong.
"In Mindfulness Therapy, we emphasize the importance of being present with our emotions; here the best thing we can do is simply be present with the person in need. That is so important — not what you say or do, but just the willingness to stay present for him or her," he said.
The theme for this year's National Suicide Prevention Week is “Challenging Our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together.” 2013 will be the 39th observance of this annual awareness week.