Archive for Friday, September 2, 2011

Suicide Prevention Week raises awareness of signs, protective factors

September 2, 2011

According to Mental Health America, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 30,000 persons die by suicide each year; an additional 500,000 Americans attempt suicide annually.

The week of Sept. 4 through 10 is National Suicide Prevention Week, which is geared to heighten awareness of suicide and the signs to watch for when someone is contemplating taking their own life.

Tonja Speer, executive director of Wyandot Center, Wyandotte County’s community mental health center, said that knowing the risk factors, warning signs and protective factors can help reduce the suicide rate.

“Suicide and suicidal behavior affect persons of all ages, genders and races,” she said.

National statistics indicate that suicide rates are highest as persons age — 40 percent of suicide victims are more than 60 years old. After age 75, the rate is three times higher than average. Yet, suicide is among the top three leading causes of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

The National Institute of Mental Health identifies risk factors for suicide that include depression, other mental disorders or substance abuse disorders, a prior suicide attempt, family history of a mental disorder, substance abuse or suicide, family violence, having guns or other firearms in the home, and incarceration.

To help counter these risks, protective factors can help, such as building self-esteem, developing problem-solving skills and fostering connections with other supportive people. Signals that may point to the need for help include verbal suicide threats, expressions of hopelessness and helplessness, previous suicide attempts, daring or risk-taking behavior, depression, personality changes, and lack of interest in future plans.

“If someone is demonstrating any of these symptoms,” Speer said, “it’s important to take them seriously — listen and express your concerns for them, and get the person professional help.”

Wyandot Center offers a 24-hour crisis telephone line at (913) 788-4200 and a weekday walk-in Crisis Clinic at its 1301 North 47th Street facility in Kansas City, Kan. The Center also offers mental health first aid training monthly that includes information about suicide threats and discusses important steps to help someone in a crisis.

For more information about Wyandot Center services that include therapy, case management and psychiatric services, call (913) 328-4600 or visit


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