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JCRN, UWJC partner with Texas Health to discuss suicide prevention

Cleburne Times-Review - 6/6/2024

Jun. 5—The Johnson County Resource Network recently met at the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce to discuss some of the myths associated with suicide. United Way of Johnson County partnered with Texas Health Resources to bring in THR Risk Manager Deborah Quirl to host an evidence-based training for suicide risk and prevention.

"Each day as we meet with clients in our various roles, we come across people who are often stressed to the max," United Way of Johnson County Executive Director and CEO Roderick Smith said. "Who feel hopeless and have thoughts of wanting to give up as their circumstances, to them, are too much to continue going through. Over the past year our partners at 2-1-1 have reported an increase in calls for mental health services. I have personally spoken with case managers who have experience these types of situations. They often ask 'how can we identify the signs' and 'what to do to prevent a drastic outcome.' We partnered with Texas Health to help equip frontline workers with tools and resources that will be beneficial to them and the population they are serving."

Quirl said she is passionate about suicide prevention.

"I actually have family that has a member that has suffered from suicide attempts, and I do have to say there is hope," she said. "So I'm very passionate about that in bringing awareness about suicide prevention."

Suicide is not something that people just sit around and talk about, she said, and it's also not a new problem. The first potential suicide notes date back to 4000 years ago in Egypt.

"It may be hard to imagine, but according to the World Health Organization, over 800,000 people die each year by suicide that is more people being killed in all the wars and homicides combined," Quirl said. "Of these deaths each year, more than 40,000 are Americans. That is one death by suicide every 13 minutes."

Suicide affects every region of the world and is the highest case of death for people ages 15-44.

"For every life lost another 25 people will attempt suicide, often causing serious medical injury or lifelong disability," she said. "Today, the greatest loss of life is among working aged men 35 to 65 years old. Men of all races and ethnicities are at higher risk, from the very young to the very old. Millions of Americans think seriously about suicide for days, weeks and even years."

Thinking seriously about suicide is itself a kind of misery index, a sign that something is terribly wrong and needs attention. Most often what needs attention and treatment is clinical depression, a medical condition that is now the leading cause of disability in the world. In America alone, there are an estimated 15 million sufferers.

"Most of us are touched by suicide," Quirl said. "Some of us have lost family members, loved ones, friends, schoolmates or colleagues. None of us escapes the loss of people we admire and respect. Whether they are people we know or are much loved — musicians, artists and entertainers. If you have lost someone close to you to suicide, then you already know the considerable cost, the tears and awful pain of loss.

"And if you are one of the millions who have thought seriously about suicide, then you already know just how lonely and terrible it is to suffer. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar and disorders like schizophrenia all contribute great risk for suicidality."

Most people suffering from a mental illness do not kill themselves, she said. Most are able to find a way to recover and lead on full and productive lives.

"If recovery is possible, that means suicide is preventable," Quirl said. "Thankfully, the world is changing. We understand mental illness. We understand suicide, and we know the treatment saves lives.

"Right now our teachers don't teach us about depression and suicide. Our faith leaders often struggle to talk openly about these topics. Too often doctors can't talk to their patients about suicide, even patients who are sitting in their offices planning how to end their lives, perhaps by overdosing on the medication being prescribed to them.

"The world remains dangerously ignorant about suicide. So to save lives, we must bring the subject out of the shadows and effective treatment will save thousands of lives around the world. But you must learn to talk concretely about suicide. And we need your help to start the conversation. Join us in this fight. The fight to save lives, preventing suicide it's when people do."

Myths about suicide

* No one can stop a suicide. It's inevitable. Wrong. If people in crisis actually get the help they need, they may actually never be suicidal again.

* Asking a person about suicide will only make them angry and increase the risk of suicide. Wrong. You will not cause someone to actually go through with suicide by asking them that asking someone directly about suicidal intent may actually lower their anxiety is going to help open up that conversation. So do not be scared to ask the question.

* Only experts can prevent suicide. Wrong. Suicide prevention is everyone's business. We can help prevent that by offering hope meant for people considering suicide.

* They're not going to talk about it. They're going to keep those plans to themselves. Wrong. The majority of people are actually going to communicate their intent sometimes either a week or maybe a few days before. They may post something on social media. They may send a text message. The fact is that people who are talking about suicide, they may actually try and beat that act of self destruction.

* Once a person decides to complete suicide, there is nothing that you can do to actually stop them. Suicide is actually one of the most preventable kinds of death and almost any positive action that you have with them, really could save a life.

How you can help

People considering suicide often give off warning signs, and Quirl detailed some warning signs to look out for.

"Sometimes they can be behavioral clues," she said. "You need to take all of those seriously, and the more clues that you have and that you see in a person, that's when you need to take action, have that courage and ask the question."

Verbal clues are the most obvious ones because they are pretty direct. Be on the listen if someone says something like, "I'm going to end it all if such and such does not happen."

"'I'm going to kill myself' and just remember everyone that said the statement actually went on to go through and die by suicide," Quirl said. "And just so you're aware, we no longer use the word 'commit' suicide. The preferred term is died by suicide."

Indirect verbal clues may be something like, "I'm tired of life. I just can't go on." or "My family would be better off without me."

There are also behavior clues.

"Think about any previous suicide attempts," she said. "If they're acquiring and dying or stockpiling pills, or there's some reoccurring depression, moodiness or hopelessness. Maybe they start putting their personal affairs in order if they start making funeral plans. Maybe they're giving away a prized possession or they start having a sudden interest or disinterest in religion. Maybe they've had a relapse from a moment of sobriety, drug or alcohol or unexplained anger.

The final is situational clues. Maybe someone was fired from their job or suffered a loss of a major relationship, death of a spouse or something similar.

"When you start seeing some of those clues, this is when you want to think about asking the suicide question," Quirl said. "It may feel a little awkward at first because, let's be honest, we still to this day don't feel comfortable talking about suicide. But the truth is, you may be the very best person in this moment that can actually talk to this person as the question and help persuade them and refer them and get them the help they need."

Quirl said it takes courage and persistence. It is important to talk to them alone.

"This is not a two-minute conversation that we're going to do in front of everyone as a family table or out in a restaurant," she said. "This is something where it needs to be in a private setting where you have time to talk. Allow that person to talk freely. Give yourself plenty of time."

The next JCRN meeting will be Aug. 8.

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