Avera Medical Minute: September is Suicide Prevention Month

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 5:34 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - To bring awareness to National Suicide Prevention Month, Dakota News Now spoke with an expert on what you should do if you suspect a loved one is considering suicide.

Thomas Otten is the Assitant Vice President of Behavioral Health Services at Avera.

What are the warning signs of suicide?

Otten: “There are several warning signs of suicide that people can really look for. Certainly, depression and suicide often go hand-in-hand. So, if you look at the signs and symptoms of depression, often those will mimic those of suicide. We’re looking for people that are feeling hopeless, feeling helpless. Sometimes, it’s things that used to give them pleasure that they’re no longer interested in, withdrawing from things, and real changes in behavior. Sometimes, it’s sleeping too much. Sometimes, it’s not sleeping at all. But significant changes in behavior is certainly something to be paying attention to. Lastly, it’s just talking about suicide or talking about wishing they were dead or feeling like people would be better off without them here. Those are some really important, classic warning signs to be looking out for.”

How do you ask the question if you think that someone is considering suicide? What shouldn’t you do?

Otten: “Generally, you start with asking questions about how they’re doing and where they’re are at. Where you need to eventually get is you need to get to the question of ‘are you having thoughts of suicide?’ It’s not just ‘are you have a tough day?’ or ‘you having thoughts of hurting yourself?’ but really naming it what it is, ‘are you having thoughts of suicide?’ The research is extremely clear on this, that you asking that question will not plant the idea in somebody’s head if they’re already thinking about that. If they were thinking out that, it gives a perfect opportunity to open a door for an honest conversation and get them to the help that they may need.”

What should you do if someone says they are contemplating doing the unthinkable?

Otten: “The first thing to do is never show shock. I would say always be prepared that their answer to that might be yes. And then, you just help them along the way. You need to get them to the resources and staff that can help them. The first that I would mention is 9-8-8, it’s a National Suicide Hotline across the country, any state you are in, in the United States that will ring to a suicide hotline in your local area. They can talk you through those situations. The second, if you are in this area or you’re around Sioux Falls, a lot times what they are going to recommend is that you come to the Avera McKennan Behavioral Health Urgent Care. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we are here waiting to serve you.”

For more information on suicide prevention, head to Avera.org/medicalminute