It’s almost March and the sun is shining. Often we think about the darkest months of winter as being the time of year when suicide is most common. However, research indicates that the spring and summer months tend to have higher rates. There are many theories as to why this is the case, but unfortunately, none are definitive.
Following are some statistics about suicide in Idaho. This information comes from Suicide Prevention Action Network--spanidaho.org.
Idaho is consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates.
- In 2010 ( most recent year available) Idaho had the 6th highest suicide rate, 49% higher than the national average.
- Between 2007 and 2011, 80% of suicides were by men.
- In 2011, 59% of Idaho suicides involved a firearm. The national average is 51%.
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Idahoans age 15-34 and for males age 10-14. (The leading cause of death is accidents.)
Clearly, suicide in Idaho is a problem. There continues to be stigma about both mental health and substance abuse, two significant factors for those who are risk for attempted and completed suicides. Persons with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders need compassion, understanding and support. As a community we can be more educated about warning signs for suicide. If we know what to look for in our loved ones, perhaps we can prevent attempts and reduce the high number of completed suicides. The American Association of Suicidology has identified factors which increase risk.
Warning Signs of Acute (or Immediate) Risk:
- Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and/or,
- Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.
Additional Warning Signs:
- 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
- Feeling trapped - like there’s no way out
- Withdrawal from friends, family and society
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Dramatic mood changes.
Though I am not advocating gun control, Idaho does have a high population of gun ownership. While gun owners don’t have a higher rate of depression or bipolar disorder, when they do become very depressed they are more likely to use the available gun as a method of suicide, rather than a less fatal option. Suicide by gun is fatal about 85% of the time, whereas suicide by overdose (prescription or over the counter medication, for example) is only fatal less than about 5% of the time. Basically, if a gun is present, people are more likely to use it and die.
It is important to recognize that even if a person isn’t making threats, talking about wanting to die, stockpiling pills, etc., but he or she has many of the additional warning signs, the risk could be quite high. If a loved one is at risk, consider removing guns, locking away medications, or other objects the person has identified as dangerous. If you observe these warning signs in yourself or others, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral. To learn more about identifying risk, please go to SPAN Idaho’s website, or suicidology.org.