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Know the Signs – ENVIRONMENT

JMKass2_thumbBy Jennifer Miller Kass, MSW, LCSW, Behavioral Health Administrative Director at Southwest Behavioral Services

People who have suicidal thoughts are often so overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and hopelessness that they think they have no other option.

Environmental factors increase the risk for suicide.  Increased risk can often occur due to:

  • A stressful life event – a death, job loss, relationship ending, financial struggles or divorce
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support
  • Stigmas associated with asking for help
  • Lack of healthcare and/or support to seek health care
  • Bullying and/or harassment

Increasing risk is associated with:

  • Access to lethal means, including firearms and drugs
  • Alcohol use
  • Being exposed to suicide

Environment SignOne of the main sociocultural causes of suicide is the feeling of being isolated or of not being accepted by others. Feelings of isolation can be caused by sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and gender identity to name only a few.  Socializing and interacting with others is a basic human need.  Therefore, being socially isolated from others can take a significant toll on a person’s mental health.  Loneliness is defined as a general feeling of sadness as a result of being alone or feeling disconnected from others.

Many people experience bullying to some degree while growing up and going through school – an unfortunate part of life. Bullying can have a profound effect on the way people think and how they feel. Most people that are bullied end up feeling extremely depressed, worthless, and hopeless to be able change their situation.  Unfortunately in some cases, bullying goes completely unrecognized until the victim is unable to take it anymore and sees suicide as the only way to escape the pain that they are experiencing.

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

  • Call 911
  • Stay with the person until help arrives
  • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm
  • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell

Professional treatment can help, including taking medication and participating in talk therapy.  Seek the help needed by talking to others, taking medication as ordered, never missing an appointment, watching for warning signs that mood is darkening and eliminating access to means of suicide.

Reduce risk for suicide by making lifestyle adjustments as well. These include:

  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs: Abstaining from using alcohol and drugs is critical, as these substances can increase the frequency of suicidal thoughts.
  • Exercising regularly: Exercising at least three times per week, especially outdoors and in moderate sunlight, can also help. Physical activity stimulates the production of certain brain chemicals that make you feel happier and more relaxed.
  • Sleeping well: It’s also important to get at least six to eight hours of sleep each night. Talk to your health care provider if you’re having trouble sleeping.

Feeling trapped and unable to cope with a particular situation in life tends to lead people to consider suicide. Whether a person has been dealing with a mental illness, faced trauma, or they have been bullied, it is the pain and continuous suffering from these experiences that becomes overwhelming. When pain exceeds our abilities to cope, people feel hopeless to change and feel suicidal.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a professional, including the resources below:

  • Grant and Iowa County 24-hour crisis line: 1-800-362-5717
  • Lafayette County 24-hour crisis line: 1-888-552-6642
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to your local Emergency Room or call 911

Jennifer Miller Kass, MSW, LCSW, Behavioral Health Administrative Director at Southwest Behavioral Services. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, she is trained as a generalist to provide quality mental health services to all age groups. Currently, Kass is providing individual and family therapy for adults.  Treatment approaches include cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, solution-focused brief therapy and motivational interviewing.  She teaches cognitive restructuring, effective communication skills, relaxation strategies, stress management, and other positive coping skills. Kass uses strengths based and family systems approaches to enhance sense of identity, self-esteem, and confidence, helping patients move forward.

Southwest Behavioral Services (SBS) is the mental health service line at Southwest Health.  SBS has been part of Southwest Health since 1998 and has grown and developed around the community’s needs.  Included in our services are: Inpatient Geriatric Psychiatry serving ages 55 and older, Outpatient psychiatric care for ages 6 and up including medication management and psychotherapy, as well as a Memory Diagnostic Clinic.    If you have questions about our service line or want to schedule an appointment do not hesitate to call us at 608-348-3656.

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