Monday, March 17, 2014


We must stop the stigma associated with mental illness, suicide

Sadly, suicide is far too common in today’s society. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 million people die each year from suicide.   

What drives a person to take their own life?  It may be hard to understand that a person is in so much pain they can’t see any other option than suicide.  Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape pain or suffering that has become unbearable.

There are many common myths about suicide, including that talking about it may give someone the idea.  The opposite is true: bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly may be one of the most helpful things you can do.  It shows you care.

Another common myth is people who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help. Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.

Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers the following valuable information:

Warning Signs for Suicide
•  Talking about wanting to die.
•  Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
•  Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
•  Talking about being a burden to others.
•  Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
•  Acting anxious or agitated.
•  Sleeping too little or too much.
•  Withdrawing or isolating.
•  Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
•  Displaying extreme mood swings.

What to do if someone exhibits warning signs:
•  Do NOT leave the person alone.
•  Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
•  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
•  Locally in Connecticut, call 2-1-1 and press 1 for the Mobile Crisis Intervention Service.
•  Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a mental health professional.

If you suspect someone you know is contemplating suicide, the worst thing you can do to stay quiet. Unfortunately, because of the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide, far too many people try to hide the situation because they are embarrassed that someone they know and love is suicidal. 

There is an ongoing campaign to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, and it includes taking a pledge to not use words that stereotype or stigmatize those with mental illness. You can take the pledge by visiting

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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