The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) joins local, state and national partners in recognizing this week (September 9 through 15) as the 38th annual National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Iowa’s youth aged 15 through 19 years old and a 2009 national survey ranked Iowa 14th in the nation for suicide rates among teens and young adults aged 15 to 24 years old.
“You do not have to be a trained professional to recognize the signs of suicide or to know what to do when you think a youth in your life is suicidal,” said Mark Vander Linden of the IDPH Division of Behavioral Health. “Most people (80 percent) who commit suicide have talked about it or given definite warning signs. Knowing those signs and taking action if necessary can save a life.” Suicide warning signs and risk factors include:
- Making a suicide plan. The more specific the plan, the higher the risk.
- Statements revealing thoughts of death, such as "I won't be around much longer," "It's hopeless," or "I won't be missed when I'm gone."
- Available means (firearms, medications)
- Depression (crying, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, hopelessness, isolation, helplessness, anger at oneself or the world).
- Previous suicide attempt(s).
- Recent loss of a friend or family member through death or suicide.
- Other losses, such as the loss of a parent through divorce, a job loss or an ended relationship.
- Giving or throwing away favorite possessions.
- Use or increased use of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Sudden change in behavior-acts differently or personality seems to change for no obvious reason; becomes aggressive, destructive or defiant.
- Sudden, dramatic decline or improvement in schoolwork.
Youth that are bullied have a higher suicide risk. A study by Yale University found that victims of bullying are between two and nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical, emotional or cyber-bullying.
If you or someone you know exhibits signs or thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). IDPH has just awarded a $50,000 grant to Boys Town in Nebraska to establish an anti-bullying and youth suicide prevention hotline and website, which will be operational by December 1st, 2012.