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Suicide -- Working through crisis

POSTED: January 13, 2013 12:30 a.m.
 

Nearly 1 million people in the United States make a suicide attempt each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In Forsyth County, 101 tried to take their own lives in 2012 and 138 threatened to do so.

In the case of attempts or some threats, those who are taken to Northside Hospital-Forsyth are sent to inpatient mental health for intervention, said spokeswoman Katherine Watson.

The hospital has a mobile assessment team from the Laurelwood center in Gainesville that performs an evaluation and can place the patient in a facility.

“While at the appropriate facility, the mental health team makes arrangements for follow-up care with outpatient centers that deal with depression,” she said. “These centers and facilities are chosen based on each patient’s specific needs.”

Adam Raulerson, a manager at Laurelwood, said its primary role in a suicide attempt or threat situations is to stabilize a person’s current crisis.

“We do that through medication management and then we help to identify what their stressors are, and then help them develop the coping skills necessary to maintain daily functioning,” Raulerson said.

The average length of stay at Laurelwood is about four days, but the staff then recommends resources to cope with the cause, often a mental illness.

Since the facility treats only those who have reached that crisis point, Raulerson said he hasn’t seen an increase. He has, however, detected some common threads in what drives a person to consider suicide.

Recently, stress related to financial situations, such as job or home loss, has been a common factor in several suicide threats or attempts.

“What’s happening globally in our economic situation has an impact on people’s mental health,” Raulerson said.

Factors are case specific, but often a threat can be “a cry for help,” he said, and so all threats should be taken seriously.

“I think it’s a misconception that if someone threatens to harm themselves, they really aren’t serious about it,” he said. “We have to take those things seriously because the guilt of not responding and the person actually committing suicide, that’s more of a burden than I want to bear.”

According to Raulerson, people should be sensitive to changes in someone, especially if they hint in conversation about death or others being happier without them around. It’s important not to overreact but to seriously approach the threat and get help for a loved one.

A societal stigma in discussing suicide and mental illness may cause someone to sidestep the uncomfortable topic, Raulerson said.

“Suicide is just something that’s not being talked about,” he said. “It’s beginning to be talked about more and more, but it’s almost like we want to avoid that conversation because we don’t want to know that people are that depressed or have gotten to a point where they feel like killing themselves is a better alternative.”

 

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