Suicide is a leading cause of death on the Eastern Shore, in Maryland, and in the United States. According to the latest available statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Maryland Governor’s Commission on Suicide Prevention, over the last 20 years, the suicide rate on the Eastern Shore has increased by 27.5 percent.
Each year, For All Seasons shines a light on suicide prevention with its No Matter What … You Matter campaign. This initiative’s goal is to prevent suicide on Maryland’s Eastern Shore through education and increased access to crisis resources. The focus of this year’s message is you never know what someone is going through. Reach out.
Recognizing the warning signs of suicide is important. Suicide often occurs when life stressors and health issues converge, leaving some people experiencing hopelessness and despair. A change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors may be warning signs of suicidal thoughts, especially if related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say, what they do, or sudden mood changes.
Some tips for dealing with someone who is considering suicide, are:
Be proactive. There are times when you notice that something is off for a friend or family member. Take note of changes in talk, behavior, and mood. Pay attention to your gut.
Talk about it. Start a conversation in a private safe space about how that person is doing. Listen to their story. Focus on showing your support and compassion. Tell them you care about them. Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems, or giving advice. You don’t have to have all the answers. Be direct. Research shows that asking someone if they are having suicidal thoughts will not put the idea into their mind.
Reduce access to means of self-harm. A suicidal crisis is temporary and often lasts minutes. Consider what items are a danger to someone who could be suicidal. Remove and/or lock up these items.
Get Help. Encourage them to seek treatment or contact their doctor or therapist or a crisis line and/or mental health services right away. Build in choice. Stay with the person until they have received support.
Follow Up. Continue to check in regularly and be a source of understanding and support.
This year’s campaign will launch with a special community conversation about suicide prevention entitled “Life is Better with You Here: A Community Conversation about Suicide Prevention” on October 5 at 7 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre. For All Seasons’ CEO Beth Anne Langrell and Chief Clinical Officer Lesa Lee, LCSW-C, will share practical strategies and tips for reaching out to those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. Register for this speaker series event at https://LifeIsBetterWithYouHere.eventbrite.com.
The same night, For All Seasons, will debut its annual suicide prevention music video. This song will offer an inspirational reminder that reaching out to loved ones in times of struggle can change lives and will feature members of For All Seasons’ Heart and Music cast and other recognizable faces and places from the Mid-Shore
“The signs and symptoms of someone who may be thinking about suicide can be widely variable. We want to be watching for any unusual shifts in behavior. Tune into the extremes that we notice in someone we care about or are close to. People who are giving away their goods could be another sign the person is having suicidal thoughts,” comments Paul Washo, Therapist at For All Seasons.
“One of the most important things to do if someone has come to you and acknowledged that they are having these suicidal thoughts is to help them know that they are not alone and that other people have these thoughts. It is more common than we hear about because it’s private. That is what this campaign is all about. Helping people understand the subtleties and be in tune with those. Also, helping them understand that there is help available and that they are worth it.”
Anyone needing help can contact For All Seasons 24/7 at 410-822-1018 or the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: Text: 410-829-6143 Toll-Free: 800-310-7273 | English:410-820-5600 | Spanish: 410-829-6143. Persons may also call Maryland Crisis Connect 24/7 – Dial 211 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For further information about For All Seasons activities related to the agency’s No Matter What … You Matter suicide prevention campaign, visit www.NoMatterWhatYouMatter.org or www.ForAllSeasonsInc.org.
For All Seasons is your community behavioral health and rape crisis center offering therapy, psychiatry, advocacy, and education to individuals and families, regardless of one’s ability to pay. For further information, visit www.forallseasonsinc.org.
Letters to Editor
Richard Smith says
The opening sentence is quite inaccurate. Suicide is not even close to the major cause of death. Limit the comment to teenagers and it would be closer, based on recent CDC stats. Still auto accidents and gun violence rank above suicides. All unfortunately are tragic and more should be done to drastically reduce these numbers.
Katie Theeke says
Thank you for taking the time to read the article. One important distinction in the opening sentence is that it says “a” leading cause of death, not “the” leading cause.
Suicide in Maryland is the 3rd leading cause for ages 10-34 years. Nationally, it is 2nd leading cause for ages 10-14 and 25-34. It drops some in the ranking for different age brackets, but it is still a leading cause and growing issue with a 30% rise in death by suicide in the last 20 years in our country.
Through educational efforts and community presentations, we hope to empower people to reach out to those in their circle and check in on them thereby increasing the opportunities for people who are struggling to feel connected and to get the support they need.