There’s no one reason for it, because there’s never one “reason” for suicide. But there are indicators that people can look for and actions people can take to get help for someone who needs it.
“Suicidal behavior is very complicated and personal,” said Mike Flaherty, head of the Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition. “There’s no definitive behavior. We deal with warning signs.”
There were 17 suicides in the county last year and 13 suicides in 2014, Daviess County Coroner Jeff Jones said. Of the four suicides in January, Jones said, “it’s real unusual for us to have as many as we had.”
Since the holiday season recently ended, there’s really nothing to connect an increase in suicides to the holiday season, or any other holiday, Flaherty said.
What is a major factor in suicide, Flaherty said, is that people who kill themselves suffer from mental health conditions, “especially depression.”
“There’s evidence that most people who die by suicide are clinically depressed,” although they may never had actually been diagnosed with depression, he said.
Warning signs that a person might be considering suicide include changes in behavior and a feeling of worthlessness, Flaherty said.
“There are some things that tend to be more serious, in being closely related to significant depression,” Flaherty said. “… One thing to look for is anything that is different from (a person) normally acts and expresses themselves,” including “withdrawal from social events and the things that used to give them pleasure.
“A really serious sign is if they talk about death — that the world would be a better without them,” Flaherty said. Other strong indicators that a person needs help is if they “express helplessness or worthlessness,” he said.
A person with clinical depression or another mental health disorder who is not taking prescribed medication is also at risk of suicide, Flaherty said.
A person who has previously attempted suicide before is considered the “highest risk” of attempting suicide again, Flaherty said. For example, the Daviess County Detention Center staff will ask arriving inmates if they’ve ever attempted suicide before, county jailer David Osborne said recently. If the person answers “yes,” they are placed on suicide watch, closely monitored and are assessed by a mental health professional.
A person who is exhibiting any signs that they’re considering suicide needs help, and there is help available. When a person considering suicide receives help, the chances of them ever attempting suicide decrease dramatically.
To get help, a person can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK. The lifeline is staffed by people who can help immediately and give the caller a number of community resources.
RiverValley Behavioral Health also has a crisis line that can provide immediate help. That number is 270-684-9466.
But even calling 911 will get a person considering suicide the help they need, Flaherty said.
“The best resource is the one that the person is going to use,” he said.
A wealth of information and resources can by found on the Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition’s website, www.orspc.org.
Survivors of suicide also need help coping with the loss of a friend or family member. Locally, there is a Survivors of Suicide support group that can help people struggling with the loss.
“That type of death is very traumatic and difficult for the survivors,” Flaherty said. “A lot of times, there is a stigma with someone associated with taking their own life that leaves survivors without the usual support” from friends who would be supportive if the death had been caused by anything other than suicide.
“It boils down to this: It’s not the manner of death” that is important, Flaherty said. “The person is grieving the loss of the loved one. If you focus on that, the grief is the same.”
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, [email protected], Twitter: @JamesMayse
Suicide Prevention Resources
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-TALK (8255).
• RiverValley Behavioral Health Crisis Line, 270-684-9466.
• Owensboro Regional Suicide Prevention Coalition, www.orspc.org.