Suicide: a growing concern

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- In 2004, the 11th leading cause of death in the United States was suicide; a total of 32,439 deaths, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. 

To help with this situation, risk factors and signs of suicide have been compiled through research to spot those in need of help. 

Research conducted by the NIMH shows that more than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have certain risk factors in common. These factors include: drug abuse, severe depression, stress, talking openly about committing suicide, having a history attempting to commit suicide, or believing that there is no solution and no way out of their problems. 

"The majority [of people] who commit suicide had drastic problems arise in their personal lives. Legal problems, romantic relationship problems, alcohol or substance abuse and having a history of a clinical disorder are the top reasons people turn towards suicide as a last resort," said Maj. Robert Belde, 22nd Medical Operations Squadron commander. 

An extreme change in behavior, whether positive or negative is a major sign of suicidal behavior. 

"It is most important to look at the person's normal behavior and see if there are changes that are not typical for them," said Major Belde. 

An example of this would be someone who is normally down to earth, suddenly acting-out in impulsive ways; not caring about the consequences. 

It is important to take action when someone may be displaying suicidal behavior. 

"Once someone comes to the point of thinking about suicide, it lingers in their mind and someone needs to keep an eye on them," said Capt. Aaron Harris, 22nd Medical Operations Squadron. 

When approaching someone about suicide, it is important to talk to them in a nonjudgmental way, according to Major Belde. After discussing concerns with the individual, they may come to realize that they need help and offer to get treatment voluntarily. 

"Be a good wingman and assist them in getting the help they need by offering to make the appointment for them to see someone right away. Taking part in getting treatment shows them that someone cares about their well-being," said Major Belde. 

"There's a fear that coming in to mental health [for help] could adversely affect their career. The attitude of our culture is very individualistic about solving problems alone," said Major Belde. 

"The stigma of being ridiculed by society makes people hesitate to get the help they need. They do not want to be perceived as weak when they need help," he said. 

"Treatment focuses on the severity of the suicidal behavior first, and then when the immediate harm is eliminated, a safety plan is put in effect. Follow-up treatments to get to the underlying factors that got them to the point of suicide, ensure effectiveness of getting help," said Captain Harris. 

Knowledge of what to look for and taking action is the key in preventing suicides, according to the NIMH. For more information contact Mental Health at 759-5091.