Five Warning Signs to Seek Help

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Dr. Paul Berkowitz
Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Sinai Health System

September is “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” across the United States. According to recent data from 1999-2016 by Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016, making it the 10th leading cause of death and second leading cause of death (after accidents) for people of 10-34 years of age. Suicide is more than an individual concern — it is a serious public health problem. There are usually warning signs before anyone attempts suicide.  Here are five warning signs that offer a strong cue for those suffering to seek help.

• Talking about death/dying or expressing hopeless/helpless/worthlessness/no reason to live (“it would be better if I was not here”, “I am done”, “I give up”)

• Social withdrawal

• Mood swings

• Increased substance use and abuse

• Dramatic behavior change/involvement in risky behaviors.

As stigma is one of the biggest barriers to getting help, it is important for family, friends or coworkers to encourage people with warning sings to seek assistance. You can also help at the individual level.  You can ask if someone does not seem well, and be ready to listen when someone wants to talk to you. Encourage at-risk friends, loved ones or coworkers to seek help. And follow up with them, make sure they’ve reached out for assistance, or help them find those resources. Taking the time to follow up with individual who seems troubled can make big difference in letting them know someone cares, and in getting them the help they need.

There are many resources available. Health systems like Sinai play key roles in suicide prevention by offering screenings for safety, mental health problems and barriers to service-seeking. For kids in crisis, the SASS hotline (Screening, Assessment and Support Services, phone # 1-800-345-9049) can be used to get a SASS Worker to come to evaluate the child in need. In fact, SASS service will soon be available for adults too in the state of Illinois. The National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-TALK –8255) is also available 24/7/365 for people needing help. The good thing is that emotional and mental health is increasingly more incorporated into regular medical practice and check-ups. But we need to be vigilant to eliminate the stigma of suicide and mental health. If you or someone you know is troubled, don’t be afraid to talk about it and seek help.

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