HOUGHTON - For every two homicides in the United States, three people die from suicide, yet it is often a problem that goes unpublicized.
With a stigma still somewhat attached to depression and even talking about suicide, it is one of the silent killers. Yet every 15 minutes in the United States, someone dies by suicide, according to the American Association of Suicidology.
To combat this, the first week in September is deemed National Suicide Prevention Week. In the Upper Peninsula and locally, the Upper Peninsula Suicide Prevention Coalition and Dial Help are hoping to raise awareness of what is often a preventable death.
"Suicide is a complex puzzle and even though Dial Help and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are a key piece, it is only one piece and we recognize there are a lot of other pieces to this puzzle from mental illness treatment and prevention all the way through aftercare and support for survivors," said Kevin Weir, UPSPC administrator and Dial Help information manager, in a press release. "It came to our attention that many of these pieces were already out there, and it just made sense to start putting this puzzle together in the form of a U.P.-wide coalition."
Although a handful of suicides may occur suddenly, much of the time there are visible warning signs for friends and family to recognize. An acronym has been created for the warning signs, ISPATHWARM, which stands for ideation (stating that a person has the idea of suicide), substance abuse, purposelessness, anxiety, trapped, hopelessness, withdrawal (isolating oneself), anger, recklessness and mood changes. When recognizing these signs in a person, the worst thing to do is to ignore them and not talk about it.
"The best thing to do is ask the person if they're thinking about it," Weir said.
The stigma involved with suicide and depression has left that conversation unstated much of the time, as people are either uncomfortable or think they will be implanting the idea of suicide. Odds are high they have already thought about it, and talking about it isn't going to put any ideas in their head, Weir said. And if a person is truly too uncomfortable to talk to the person, they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Although the stigma still exists, it does appear to be whittling away. Calls to the lifeline and Dial Help have been increasing, which means more people are seeking out help.
"This year marks an increase (in call volume) of 16 percent over last year, which saw a 70 percent increase from the year prior," Eliisa Laitila, Dial Help's crisis unit program manager, said in a press release. "With an extended weak economy, returning veterans from military conflicts and many people denied mental health services due to budget cuts, we will likely see even more people utilizing this confidential, free service for those in emotional distress that is only a phone call away by dialing 1-800-273-TALK."
For those that are depressed and have considered suicide, Weir said those thoughts should not just be pushed away as normal.
"They need to talk to whoever they're most comfortable with, whether it's a trusted friend, relative, teacher, counselor or clergyman," he said.
If they are not comfortable talking to someone they know, they can call the lifeline, Dial Help at 482-HELP or do a live chat with someone by clicking on the live chat button on dialhelp.org.
One of the ways Dial Help is aiding in opening up conversations is training people to help recognize the warning signs and know how to intervene. It has been training via the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training program, an intensive, comprehensive, two-day training skills session. Those interested in the training can contact Dial Help at 482-9077.
For more information on events for National Suicide Prevention Week, visit upspc.dialhelp.org.