Governor John Hoeven has proclaimed September as Suicide Prevention Month in North Dakota.
According to the North Dakota Department of Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death among North Dakotans ages 15 to 24 and the 10th leading cause of death overall. North Dakota ranks 15th in the nation for its rate of suicide deaths. In 2008, 86 North Dakotans died as a result of suicide.
Suicide affects everyone, but some groups are at higher risk than others. Men in North Dakota and nationally are four times more likely than women to die from suicide. In North Dakota, people in the 25 to 34 age group and American Indians are also at higher risk.
“Knowing the risk factors and warning signs for suicide may save a life,” said Gail Erickson, Suicide Prevention director for the Department of Health. “It’s important to realize, however, that not everyone who displays these warning signs will attempt suicide.”
Risk factors for suicide include, but are not limited to:
• Previous suicide attempt(s).
• History of depression or other mental illness.
• Alcohol or drug abuse.
• Family history of suicide or violence.
• Physical illness.
• Feeling alone.
“Unfortunately, someone dies as a result of suicide every four days in North Dakota,” said State Health Officer Terry Dwelle, M.D., M.P.H.T.M. “About 5 million Americans have lost a loved one to suicide in the last 25 years. That’s why it’s important for all of us to recognize the warning signs and reach out to people who are having difficulty coping.”
The warning signs of suicide can include:
• Changes in a person’s mood, diet or sleeping pattern.
• Increased alcohol or drug use.
• Withdrawal from friends, family and society.
• Rage or uncontrolled anger.
• Reckless behavior.
Some of the ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide include:
• Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
• Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
• Be nonjudgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
• Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
• Don’t dare him or her to do it.
• Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
• Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
• Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
• Take action. Remove lethal means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
• Get help from someone specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
In North Dakota, help is available by calling 2-1-1, a free and confidential 24/7 information, crisis management, and referral services program.
The North Dakota Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention raises funds for scientific research, education and treatment programs, as well as programs to support those who have lost loved ones to suicide. This year, five “Out of the Darkness” Community Walks have been scheduled in North Dakota to raise funds for suicide prevention and awareness. The event will be held in Minot September 19, Grand Forks September 20, Fargo September 27, and BismarckOctober 3. (Williston’s community walk was held September 13.)
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