The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. (Or remember it this way: 1-800-273-TALK)
Recent tragic and shocking stories from the celebrity worlds serve as a sad reminder to us all of the importance of taking care of our own mental health and looking out for the mental health of those we love. In a very public way, these deaths drive home the heavy toll that depression can take and highlight the desperate plight of those who suffer from depression, substance abuse or other mental illnesses. Fame, fortune, career success and the love of friends and family proved powerless in the face of the crushing weight of depression and life problems that caused these beloved figures to take their own lives:
- Anthony Bourdain, 61 – celebrity chef, CNN television travel show host and author
- Kate Spade, 55 – iconic fashion designer
Celebrities put the issue of suicide in the headlines but there are many quiet tragedies that play out every day. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), nearly 45,000 people die by suicide every year in the U.S., or 123 suicides per day, the 10th leading cause of death overall. The celebrity suicides put a spotlight on the issue. The best tribute we can offer is to use the associated media spotlight to share prevention resources. It’s important that we look out for ourselves and know where and how to get help. It is also important that we look out for our loved ones and friends to help them get help, because depression can be immobilizing.
In thinking about what leads to suicide and who is at risk, ASFP says:
“There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life.”
According to AFSP, 50% to 75% of suicidal individuals give some warning of their intentions.
“The most effective way to prevent a friend or loved one from taking his or her life is to recognize the factors that put people at risk for suicide, take warning signs seriously and know how to respond. They issue a one-page guide with signs of imminent danger of suicide and steps that can be taken to respond to these warning signs.”
See the AFSP’s list of risk factors and warning signs.
Depression is often a factor in suicide
Often, depression can be a factor in suicides. It’s important to understand depression, to know that treatment is available and the importance of people getting help – which often means that family members and friends must help. For resources on depression, see our post made in the wake of another beloved celebrity’s tragic death by suicide: Robin Williams’ death puts a spotlight on depression. And for powerful testimony about depression from a survivor, see Mike Wallace’s battle with depression leading to a suicide attempt.
Employers can play a role in suicide prevention
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center suggests that employers can play an important role in helping to prevent suicide. Because people spend a significant portion of their lives at work, employers have the opportunity to see changes in behavior, personality or mood. Training managers to be alert for and make referrals when they observe signs of depression and other early warning signs of problems may save lives.
If you observe warning signs or changes in behavior or personality, don’t try to diagnose the problem or find the reason for the behavior changes, simply help the employee to find professional assistance through your EAP or an occupational health specialist. Work performance can be a great leverage for people who might otherwise be reluctant to seek help for a problem.