Save lives by learning warning signs for suicide

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Suicide is one of the top causes of death in Tennessee, but each life lost to suicide is a preventable death. Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or background. The Tennessee Department of Health urges Tennesseans during Suicide Prevention Week to learn the warning signs of suicide and help save lives.
“Almost all of us have been, or know someone who has been, impacted by suicide. Suicide can impact anyone, regardless of his or her status, position or fame,” said TDH Deputy Commissioner for Population Health Michael D. Warren, MD, MPH. “Suicide is often the result of untreated depression or other mental illness. Each of us can serve as a resource for someone in crisis by learning the warning signs of suicide and having a crisis plan to help someone in need.”
There is no single cause of suicide. Unfortunately, stigma can prevent people from talking openly with each other about thoughts of suicide and resources to prevent suicide. In 2018, Tennessee passed the Suicide Prevention Act which establishes a suicide prevention program within the Department of Health. This program will develop a stakeholder group to identify data and best practices to prevent suicide in Tennessee.
Here are steps Tennesseans can take to reduce deaths by suicide:
• Know the warning signs and risks of suicide:
— Comments about suicide or preoccupation with death
— Social withdrawal, mood swings or reckless behavior
— Previous suicide attempts
— Access to lethal means such as weapons
— Increased substance use
• Know what to do as a family member, friend or caregiver
• Learn about suicide warning signs
• Provide support through active listening
• Ask direct questions such as, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
• Have a crisis plan
• Identify family, friends and professionals who can help
• Locate local walk-in crisis centers or use Tennessee Mobile Crisis Services, 855-274-2471
• Know the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• Know the 24/7 Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741)
In 2017, 1,163 Tennesseans died by suicide. Communities, workplaces, schools and families can play an active role in decreasing suicide by providing education, resources and support for prevention, intervention and treatment. Managers, teachers, friends and family members can receive training such as Question, Persuade, Refer or QPR to be prepared to help loved ones in need. Just as people trained in CPR help save thousands of lives each year, people trained in QPR learn to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade and refer someone to receive help. This evidence-based program is provided by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. For more information, visit for suicide data, resources and multiple training opportunities.
(Michael D. Warren, MD, MPH is Deputy Commissioner for Population Health for the Tennessee Department of Health.)

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