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Sharp Health News

Destigmatizing suicide

May 15, 2017

Destigmatizing suicide

Suicide is complicated, unkind and devastating. While it most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities, there is no single cause. Nearly 45,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States.

"The warning signs of suicide can range from a change in behavior, such as increased isolation or depression, to a lack of interest in hobbies or withdrawal from normal levels of socialization," explains Elizabeth Callahan, EdD, licensed psychologist and behavioral health therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. "However, a more imminent warning sign is when a person begins to give away personal belongings."

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our country; for every person who dies by suicide, 25 people make an attempt. With the goal of providing education and awareness on this topic and others, Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center is holding the second annual South County Behavioral Health Resource Fair — Changing Minds, Minds Matter — on Saturday, May 20. The free event is a collaboration of more than 50 community partners, intended to inspire and empower San Diego's South County community.

At this year's event, representatives from Survivors of Suicide Loss, a San Diego nonprofit organization, will discuss suicide prevention and dealing with the loss of a family member to suicide.

"Losing someone to suicide is a traumatic experience; if the trauma is not treated, it can lead to drug and alcohol problems, mental health issues and suicide risk," explains Joyce Bruggeman, executive director of Survivors of Suicide Loss. "At the Behavioral Health Resource Fair, we'll discuss the warning signs of suicide, how to start the conversation of prevention if someone is exhibiting the signs, and how to refer them to resources and help."

Everyone experiences emotional events, anxiety and stressful situations; however, mental health concerns go beyond the usual and become long-lasting conditions. In fact, 1 in 4 adults in San Diego County faces behavioral health challenges, but recovery is possible.

"It's important to remember that asking a person if they are suicidal will not increase their desire to do so. In fact, it actually decreases the risk of them attempting because it destigmatizes the subject," explains Callahan. "In my observation, many people who are suicidal don't want to die, rather they want to end their suffering, whatever that may be for them. And the more comfortable a person feels asking for help, the more likely they will get the support they need."

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, seek help as soon as possible. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

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