A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that suicide rates have increased nationally over the past 20 years.
Every state in the country has seen an increase of at least 30 percent since 1999, with North Dakota reporting the highest increase: 57.6 percent.
The topic of suicide has been in the news lately, with the celebrity deaths of designer Kate Spade and television personality Anthony Bourdain — their deaths, both reportedly from suicide, occurred within a three-day period in June — and actress Margot Kidder, whose May death was recently deemed suicide.
Each year, 44,965 Americans die by suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states. In North Dakota, specifically, it is the ninth leading cause of death.
“It’s pretty predominant, especially among depressed patients,” said Lea Johnson, LICSW, a therapist with Trinity Health’s Behavioral Health Services, noting that thoughts of suicide are one of the nine criteria for screening for depression.
Suicide ideation – the thoughts of suicide – can come from many sources: “If people have chronic pain, they may think of suicide,” Johnson said. “If they are younger and they have some undiagnosed mental health condition or an adjustment – like a breakup – there could be a suicidal thought.” The frequency of suicide ideation “depends on the person,” Johnson added.
A study from the Center for Rural Health – University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences, cites several factors related to suicide. They include:
• Mental illnesses such as depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Barriers to get help
• Alcohol and other drug abuse
• Rural isolation and loneliness
• Mental health treatment stigma
• Bullying, harassment, and violence
• Historical trauma/cultural “numbing”
The North Dakota Suicide Prevention Program lists the following as suicide warning signs:
• Appearing depressed or sad most of the time
• Talking or writing about death or suicide
• Withdrawing from family and friends
• Feeling hopeless
• Feeling helpless
• Feeling strong anger or rage
• Experiencing dramatic mood changes
• Abusing drugs or alcohol
• Exhibiting a change in personality
• Acting impulsively
• Losing interest in most activities
• Experiencing a change in sleeping habits
• Experiencing a change in eating habits
• Losing interest in most activities
• Performing poorly at work or in school
• Giving away prized possessions
• Writing a will
• Feeling excessive guilt or shame
• Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
• Talking about having no reason to live
• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
• Withdrawing or feeling isolated
“There is no single factor that could influence one to have suicidal thoughts,” explained Heather Sys, RN, BSN, MBA, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Trinity Health. “All of the factors that are cited could influence one to feel this way.”
In addition, Johnson said there are signs that can “be vague and people may not see it until the suicide is completed.”
At Trinity Health, inpatient and outpatient services are available for those suffering from depression or suicidal ideation. Services are provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed independent clinical social workers, licensed professional clinical counselors, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists. Outpatient services, such as crisis counseling and individual, family and group counseling, are available at Health Center – Riverside, 1900 8th Avenue SE, Minot. At Trinity Hospital – St. Joseph’s, located at 407-3rd Street SE, Minot, inpatient services such as crisis stabilization are available.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also provides opportunities for survivors of suicide loss to get involved through a wide variety of educational, outreach, awareness, advocacy, and fundraising programs.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please call 2-1-1 or 1-800-472-2911, the Mental Health Association in North Dakota.