AMES, Iowa — Suicide has been prominently in the news with the recent deaths of well-known celebrities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is a major public health problem and a leading cause of death in the United States. The effects of suicide are often felt beyond the person who acted to take his or her life. It can have a lasting impact on family, friends, schools, churches, work sites and communities, says Malisa Rader, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
In Iowa, the suicide rate has increased over 36 percent since 1999 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Iowa is also well known for a high risk industry – farming, Rader said. “According to a 2012 CDC study, those working in the farming, fishing and forestry industries had the highest rate of suicide overall (84.5 per 100,000 population). This suicide rate was even higher than for military veterans. Farmers even have the highest mortality rate from stress related illnesses.
Be attentive to warning signs
It’s important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide, Rader said. According to www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org, such signs could include:
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself.
- Seeking access to means to hurt or kill oneself.
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.
- Feeling hopeless.
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities.
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs.
- Withdrawing from family, friends, or society.
- Appearing agitated or angry.
- Having a dramatic change in mood.
How to help others
“If you think a loved one or friend may be at risk for suicide, there are some steps you can take to try to help this person,” said David Brown, a Human Sciences specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach and Licensed Marital and Family Therapist.
“First, listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. If you are concerned, ask, ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?’ If the person says yes or doesn’t give a direct answer, take the next steps. Ask what the person plans to do. Then try to reduce the person’s access to highly lethal items, such as guns or pills,” Brown said.
“The last and most important step is to get the person help,” Brown said.“Do not leave the person alone. If you cannot take the person to a hospital emergency room, have someone call 911.
Other resources available for those who are distressed are the Iowa Concern Hotline or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Iowans can call the ISU Extension and Outreach Iowa Concern Hotline, 800-447-1985, for help and referrals for dealing with stress. The Iowa Concern website at www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/ has a live chat feature as an additional way to talk with stress counselors. Agencies and professionals serving individuals and families can contact local ISU Extension and Outreach county offices about Iowa Concern hotline number business cards available for distribution.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. It also offers prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. Additional information is found at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
The following publications can be accessed at ISU Extension and Outreach county offices or from the Extension Online Store, https://store.extension.iastate.edu/