Hand holding a yellow ribbon in the sky for suicide awareness month

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

September is Suicide Awareness Month and this year it is more important than ever to focus on mental health, including suicide awareness and prevention.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the act of social distancing has made an impact on people’s mental health. In late June, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse, with 11% stating they seriously considered suicide, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Norman Regional’s Behavioral Health Services has also seen a correlation between the pandemic and increased depression, anxiety, anger, and hopelessness in their own patients.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have seen increased anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and suicidality as a direct response to the fear of COVID-19 in my patients. This has resulted in increased isolation, substance abuse, physical abuse, and self-harm. There have been many reports of family discord and even some break-ups as a result of financial insecurity and fear of joblessness, homelessness and poverty,” said Collyn Moone, MSW, LCSW, psychotherapist/ psychiatric social worker. “To address this, I have been encouraging patients to practice mindfulness, positive self-talk, and increased self-care, such as eating a healthy diet, getting proper sleep, and maintaining an exercise program and spiritual health during this overwhelming time.”

One of the most important ways to raise awareness about suicide is by talking about. Here are some of the things you need to know.

Suicide facts

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the ninth leading cause of death in Oklahoma
  • Suicide rates increased in almost every state from 1999 to 2016
  • Oklahoma has the 10th highest rate of suicide in the U.S.
  • More than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition
  • On average, one person dies by suicide every 11 hours in the state of Oklahoma
  • More than four times as many people died by suicide in Oklahoma in 2017 than in alcohol related motor vehicle accidents.

Suicide warning signs

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talking or posting on social media about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide

How to help someone who is suicidal

  • Ask

Assess their risk of suicide or harm by simply asking. Some people fear that mentioning suicide might cause someone to consider it for the first time, but this isn’t true, according to Mental Health First Aid. By mentioning it, you’re much more likely to help someone feel less alone if they were considering it.

  • Keep them safe
  • Be there
  • Help them connect
  • Follow up

Suicide resources

If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Oklahomans can also seek help by calling 211, a free statewide call center that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can help connect callers with mental health services throughout the state, as well as other resources as needed.

We’re here to help. Norman Regional Behavioral Medicine's staff of caring professionals is here to help. Norman Regional has an inpatient psychiatric unit at Norman Regional Hospital, 901 N. Porter Ave. in Norman. Call 405-307-5555 for 24-hour information and referrals.

One patient recently said, “This pandemic has hit me hard and I had just given up. Thank you so much for helping me through to the other side of hope & faith. I have truly appreciated all the staff and patients in this unit.”

Norman Regional Senior Counseling Center provides outpatient-counseling services designed specifically for senior adults at Norman Regional Moore, 700 S. Telephone Rd., Suite 301, in Moore. Transportation is provided within a 35-mile radius. If you or someone you know could benefit from this program, simply call 405-912-3495. A screening will be provided at your convenience in the comfort of your home. Medicare is accepted.