As I started to write this, I received a message from a person I had known from a job in another state. She is a professional, but not in the health services field. She reported that her brother, who was in yet another state, had called her saying he was suicidal. My friend asked for a referral to a psychiatrist with a similar practice style to mine.
When I returned her call, I learned the brother had a gun and was threatening to shoot both his girlfriend and himself. Meanwhile, his sister could not get a call through to his household and I learned their father had committed suicide.
The answer was easy for me to say “call the police… NOW.”
“He may,” I said, “but do you want him to be alive and hate you, or have him be dead and know that maybe that could have been prevented?”
The tragic fact is that every year, nine Vermont teens die from suicide. Seven are male, two are female. Many of these are preventable.
Who’s especially at risk? Teens who:
- abuse alcohol or other substances.
- have had a recent loss, like the breakup of a relationship.
- have had a previous suicide attempt.
- have a mental illness (diagnosed or undiagnosed).
- have cut or otherwise intentionally hurt themselves.
- have experienced any form of abuse, or been witness to abuse in their family.
- have been bullied.
- have lost a close friend or family member to suicide.
What you can do:
- Always take threats or talk of threats seriously.
- Do not minimize the situation: comments like “It can’t be THAT bad”, or “but you’ve only been dating for a week” have no place in the discussion.
- Do not leave the person alone if you have serious concerns for their well being.
- Call 9-1-1 and ask for a mental health crisis counselor.
- You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help at 1-800-273-8255.
Also, limit access:
- Lock up guns and other weapons: 75% of suicidal attempts in teen males are with guns, and most of these attempts are fatal.
- Take away or hide the car keys
- Lock up all medication, even over-the-counter medication and alcohol.