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The unfortunate suicide of actor/comedian Robin Williams brings the issue of suicide to the forefront. Angela Cantwell, RN-BC, Program Director for Einstein’s Crisis Response Center (CRC) which provides emergency psychiatric evaluation and care for adults, teens and children 24/7, offers the following information. Suicide is a desperate act to escape what is perceived by the person as unbearable suffering. People are blinded by their feelings, and don’t see a solution other than death to escape their pain. Suicidal people wish there was an alternative, and are very likely conflicted about ending their life, but are not able to see alternatives.• Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States . In 2010, there were more than 38,000 suicides – an average of 105 suicides every day. • Approximately 500,000 ER visits are due to suicide attempts each year. There are countless attempts that go undetected. Where to Go for Help:• Einstein CRC at Germantown or any of the four CRCs in the City of Philadelphia are available 24/7 for emergency access to care: 215-951-8300• Philadelphia Warmline staffed by Certified Peer Specialists who offer support, hope, and resources (1-855-507-WARM (9276)• National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)• Deaf Suicide Hotline: 1-800-799-4889 Risk Factors: • mental illness• alcohol and/or drug abuse• previous suicide attempts• family history of suicide• terminal illness or chronic pain• recent loss (job, relationship, loved one, pet• social isolation• history of abuse/trauma• a recent start of anti-depressants (usually within the past 2 months)Warning Signs:Most suicidal people give warning signs. Make yourself aware of some of the warning signs so you can respond. Do not disregard suicidal statements or behavior – they are cries for help. • A person talks about suicide. Statements such as “I’d be better off dead”• A person accesses the means to kill himself, such as buying a gun, stockpiling medications, or researching ways to kill himself.• A person becomes preoccupied with death (thinks about it, watches shows about it)• A person has no hope for the future:”Things will never get better.” • A person expresses hatred for him/herself: “People would be better off without me.”• A person starts to say goodbye to people or making final preparations• A person isolates him/herself from family and friends• A person displays a sudden sense of calmness after a deep depression – this can mean the person has made the decision to go through with a suicide plan.How Can You Help Someone Who May Be Suicidal? • TALK to the person. Don’t be afraid that you’ll say something wrong. Be supportive and non-confrontational, but be direct. Start the conversation: “I’ve noticed that you don’t seem quite yourself lately.” • OFFER SUPORT. Letting someone know they are not alone can prevent a suicide.• LISTEN to the person and allow them to get things off their chest. Be patient, calm, and accept the person’s feelings without judgment.• Offer HOPE and HELP. Reassure the person that there is help available. Let the person know they are important to you and others. Reassure them that their feelings may change. Provide phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines. Bring them to the nearest Crisis Response Center (CRC). Einstein has its own CRC at its Germantown campus which is open 24 hours a day/7 days a week.• ASK DIRECTLY. Ask the person specifically if they are having thoughts of hurting themself. Don’t be afraid that you are planting an idea. Asking directly shows concern and it’s ok to talk about it.• RESPOND QUICKLY. Ask if the person has a plan. Call 911 immediately or bring the person to a CRC if they express thoughts of wanting to hurt themself.
• REMOVE ANY MEANS. Secure weapons, remove medications, lock up sharp objects, and most importantly, DO NOT LEAVE THE PERSON ALONE.
• DO NOT argue, or lecture the person. DO NOT promise “not to tell” because a suicidal person needs immediate help and if you promise to keep their secret, you will have to break your promise.