Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Youth Suicide Warning Signs and How to Help

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for youth ages 5-14 and 15-24 years of age in Iowa. One way in which we can work to prevent suicides is to recognize suicide warning signs.  Adult suicide warning signs have been available, and recently a panel of national and international experts convened to identify youth-specific suicide warning signs.  These warning signs suggest that an attempt may be imminent and are published to help the public better understand the way youth think, feel, and behave prior to making life-threatening suicide attempts.   These warning signs, suggestions on how to respond, and additional resources are all available at: www.youthsuicidewarningsigns.org

The newly released youth suicide warning signs are:
1.       Talking about or making plans for suicide.
2.       Expressing hopelessness about the future.
3.       Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress.
4.       Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above.  Specifically, this includes significant:
·         Withdrawal from or changing in social connections/situations
·         Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
·         Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
·         Recent increased agitation or irritability

Response suggestions include:
1.       Ask if they are ok or if they are having thoughts of suicide;
2.       Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior;
3.       Listen attentively and non-judgmentally;
4.       Reflect what they share and let them know they have been heard;
5.       Tell them they are not alone;
6.       Let them now there are treatments available that can help; and
7.       If you are or they are concerned, guide them to additional professional help.

The main goal behind this initiative was to determine what changes immediately preceded suicide attempts or deaths; these changes are supported by research and rooted in clinical practice.  The experts involved in the development of these youth suicide warning signs reviewed and analyzed all available literature and conducted a survey of youth suicide attempt survivors, as well as those who lost a youth to suicide. A panel was then convened and consisted of researchers with extensive experience working with suicidal youth, public health officials, clinicians with decades of individual experience helping suicidal youth, school teachers, and various other stakeholders including individuals representing national organizations focused on suicide prevention. In addition, focus groups with youth and adults were held to gain their input on the findings and dissemination plans.

If you see these warning signs in someone you know please get them help by contacting a mental health services provider.  In Van Buren County there are two Mental Health Service Providers available to help youth and adults who are struggling with destructive thinking and other issues.  They are:
1.       Optimae: There is a 24/7 crisis assessment program available at VBCH at the Emergency Room, with licensed mental health professionals from Optimae available to assess and support people in crisis;  urgent care appointments are available for Van Buren County residents at Optimae in both the Van Buren and Jefferson County Optimae offices;  the Optimae Wellness and Recovery Center is also open and free for all residents, offering numerous support groups, including grief support and Love and Logic classes for parents - for more information call 641-472-5771. 
2.       R&R Counseling Solutions is new to the Community although Phillip Davis LMHC, NCC and Nancy Dewes LMHC, LISW, NCC have been working in the community for the last 7 years;  they have contracted with the Van Buren & Harmony Community School Districts to see children in the schools (they have provided these services to the schools for the last 7 years and are now providing the same services with R&R Counseling Solutions); The schools can be contacted to refer children in the schools or you may call 641-455-0636; they also have an office at 120 N Hwy 1, Birmingham, IA where they see adults and children from the community and surrounding areas; they work with people of all ages who are dealing with depression, anxiety, anger, abuse, grief, divorce and other issues that affect their well-being; they are committed to the community and are looking for ways to give back as they are able.

Other resources available to community members are the suicide prevention hotlines that provide free, confidential services:
·         National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) or online site suicidepreventionlifeline.org; and
·         Your Life Iowa Line:  Call = 855-581-8111 or Text = 855-895-TEXT (8398) or chat = www.yourlifeiowa.org

Additional suicide prevention information, materials, and resources may be found on the IDPH Suicide Prevention page at: https://idph.iowa.gov/substance-abuse/youth-suicide-prevention.  For more information on local suicide prevention efforts, please contact the SAFE Coalition at 319-293-6412 or at info@vbsafecoalition.com.

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