Lives in Balance

Communication is key to prevent suicide.

Eleyah Slavens

Eleyah Slavens

Bethany Gott, Reporter

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Suicide rates in Missouri have been higher than the national rate for over a decade. In 2013, Missouri’s suicide rate was the 18th highest in the nation with a rate of 15.88 compared to the national rate which was 13.02.
According to healthline.com, the main causes for high suicide rates in the past five years is due to mental illness, substance abuse and poor access to medical care for mental illnesses.
Nancy Taylor, practicum student, is doing an internship at National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) in hopes of helping her future career as a social worker.
“For the year 2017, so far, we have gotten over 50, 302 calls,” Taylor said.
Taylor has been working at NSPL since May and has had calls from 10 year olds all the way up to 80 year olds.
“When people call they aren’t always necessarily thinking about committing suicide,” Taylor said. “Sometimes they’re just thinking about dying and want to talk about it. A lot of times people just want someone to talk to. Talking to a stranger about suicidal thoughts is a lot easier to do rather than talking to friends or family. Suicide is very situational and very personal.”
Amy Clotfelter worked as a psychiatric social worker on both the child, adolescent and adult psychiatric units at Cox South for a couple of years.
Though Clotfelter does not have any personal experience, she did work with foster kids who had attempted suicide.
“When a person becomes withdrawn, is no longer interested in activities or things that they were once involved with, that is a sign that friends and family need to look for,” Clotfelter said.
Key protective factors, or coping skills, are vital when teaching kids about suicide.
“Teaching kids at a young age how to cope with life changes in a positive way and instilling good problem solving skills when issues do arise or when things don’t go their way is what helps kids become a stable adult,” Clotfelter said. “For parents, it is important to be supportive of kids through good, bad and fostering–a positive self esteem in our kids at home and in their activities.”
Sometimes people who consider committing suicide have a chronic and serious mental illness like depression, anxiety or a bipolar disorder that is left untreated. Sometimes suicide is due to other elements in the person’s life.
“A lot of times people are feeling isolated or that they don’t belong, picked on by peers, severe abuse by parents or caretakers or having the feeling that nothing is ever going to change are reasons they turn to suicide,” Clotfelter said.
People are often labeled as overdramatic when they threaten to kill themselves, but friends and family should not underestimate the power of depression.
“If someone tells you that they’re going to kill themself, take them seriously,” Clotfelter said. “Respect that they told you and their confidence in you to help, but if needed, tell a trusted adult. Stay with them until they are able to find someone they can talk to and find solutions for their feelings of suicide.”
Clotfelter gives tips for people if they are told by their peer or a family member that they are thinking of committing suicide.
“It’s important to be supportive and caring of everyone,” Clotfelter said. “Don’t isolate people, or pick on people when they’re different. Take the higher road and if you see someone is being picked on, become their friend. Learn their strengths and build on them. If you see someone you fear may be suicidal, tell a trusted adult and they can better assess or support the person in that situation.”
The Suicide Prevention hotline number is 1-800-784-2433. Debora Biggs is the executive director at Nami Hope Center Southwest Missouri.
“Suicide is never with a specific age,” Biggs said. “In July the youngest suicide we had was 13 years old and the oldest was 66. Here at Nami we try to make connections with our patients in order to learn ways they can cope. We learn what sets them off; there are people who have suicidal thoughts but never create a plan or go through with it. Suicide attempts are different for every individual. Usually it’s because the patient has gotten to a certain point and they have lost all hope, that’s why it’s important to be aware of changes in ways people are behaving. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are having suicidal thoughts, and don’t be afraid to ask if they have a plan. Be someone who is willing to listen without judgment.”

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Glendale High School Quill Springfield, Missouri
Lives in Balance