Suicide prevention: everyone's responsibility

  • Published
  • By Earl Rivers
  • 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron
Throughout the United States, National Suicide Prevention Week takes place during Sept. 4-10. This year's theme is "Changing the Legacy of Suicide." In 2007 more than 34,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. This equated to an average of 94 individuals per day, or one person each 15 minutes, died by suicide. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. with an annual rate of 11.5 per 100,000 people.

Each year in the U.S., more than 17,000 men and women kill themselves with a gun; 67 percent more than the number of people who use a gun to kill another person. Males complete suicide at a rate four times that of females; however, females attempt suicide three times more often than males. Approximately 864,950 Americans attempt suicide each year. It is estimated that five million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves. And, an estimated 4.6 million Americans are survivors of the suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one.

"Because of the complexity of issues surrounding suicide and the sensitivity required in efforts to prevent these tragedies, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has expanded and deepened its focus on suicide prevention," stated Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA Administrator. "Suicide Prevention is now prominently featured in several of SAMHSA's Strategic Initiatives. Those Initiatives include Military Families; Trauma and Justice; and Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness,"

A person at risk for suicidal behavior will often exhibit warning signs:
· Threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself
· Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary
· Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
· No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
· Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
· Hopelessness
· Withdrawal from friends, family and society
· Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
· Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
· Dramatic mood changes

If observed, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health (MH) professional, local MH clinic or hospital emergency room, or calling 9-1-1.

To assist Hurlburt Field commanders, first sergeants, leaders, supervisors and wingmen in promoting suicide awareness and prevention, the Hurlburt Field Behavioral Health Services Flight provides a wide range of prevention education, outreach, evaluation, treatment and referral services to active duty members.

The BHS Flight is located on the 2nd floor of the Hurlburt Field Clinic, and its staff can be reached at 881-4237. Family members, of active duty personnel, should contact TriCare-partner Value Options at (800) 700-8646 for information and/or assistance in obtaining behavioral health evaluation and treatment services.

Remember, suicide prevention is a community responsibility. It is everyone's business, and everyone can contribute.