The following article was featured in the Family Center of Grosse Pointe and Harper Woods Newsletter as well as in the Grosse Pointe News:
Ask the Expert |Amelia Lehto & Amanda Stein, LMSW
Q: What are the signs to watch for that someone might be suicidal and what should one do if they are concerned?
A: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suicide, is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and from a report in 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, while a quarter of those made an attempt. Research from the American Association of Suicidology found that 40-50% of the population have been exposed to suicide in their lifetime.
If you are concerned about an individual in your life the best course of action is to ask them directly. Use the word suicide, share your concern, as in "I've noticed you seem to be struggling lately. Have you had thoughts of suicide?" By asking and saying the word suicide you give the person permission to talk about it with you. While this may not be the case for every person experiencing suicide, research has informed and supported this approach.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) lists the following as some of the risk factors for suicide:
● Mental health and illnesses such as: Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Conduct Disorders, and Substance Use Disorders
● Serious physical health conditions including pain and traumatic brain injury
● Prolonged exposure to stress (a recent loss or threat of a loss)
● Exposure to another person's suicide
● Personal history of abuse and past suicide attempt
AFSP also lists the following as some possible warning signs:
● Dramatic change in behavior
● Change in sleeping and/or, either too much or too little
● Talking about feeling like a burden, hopeless, helpless, feeling trapped
It's important to remember that these lists are guides and that what's most important is that if you feel concerned or are questioning, you should ask. There are many contributing factors to suicide, both internal and external. Many people worry that by asking about suicide, even bringing the topic up, they may plant the idea. The opposite is true.
Asking directly and talking about suicide, using the word, helps to reduce stigma and eliminate shame. Both of which are healthy and protective factors. These challenging conversations may also provide opportunity for change and access to support or services the person may not have yet considered.
Amelia Lehto is an Advisory Board Member to Kevin's Song and Amanda Stein, LMSW-Clinical; both serve as co-facilitators to Kevin's Song Suicide Loss Support Group held the First Wednesday and Third Thursday of the month via Zoom. Kevin’s Song is a local nonprofit founded in honor of Kevin Urso, the son of Gail and John Urso, who died by suicide when he was 41 years old. Kevin’s Song has set out to empower communities to prevent suicide and offering hope and healing to survivors. Survivors is a broadly used term that, in our case, refers to those have lived experience of suicide (attempt survivors) and those bereaved by suicide (suicide loss survivors).