Preventing Suicide: Information for Caregivers from MedFlight911 Air Ambulance
At MedFlight911, we provide assistance to caregivers and patients when they need air ambulance services. Many of our patients will require convalescent or hospice care and many have caregivers tending to their needs. As a result, we feel very strongly about helping caregivers with their needs. In previous blogs, we have discussed caregiver stress, depression, and burnout. Today, we will be discussing suicide.
Caregiving does not cause suicide, nor does it directly lead to it. However, caregivers are at increased risk for depression and burnout which can increase their risk factors for suicide. In fact, risk factors for caregiver depression and burnout, such as social isolation and serious physical and mental illness, are the same risk factors as for suicide.
More common than you think
Suicide is the sixth leading cause of death for all Americans and the 13th leading cause of death worldwide. On average, one suicide occurs every 16 minutes. According to Suicide.org, there are 750,000 suicide attempts and 33,000 suicide deaths each year.
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
- Violent actions or rebellious behavior
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Neglect of personal appearance
- Marked personality change
- Persistent boredom or difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities
- Giving away favorite possessions, jewelry, pets, or money
What to do if you think a loved one is suicidal
Be direct. Ask the person directly if he or she is having suicidal thoughts, has a plan and has access to means. Asking someone if they have considered suicide will not put ideas into their head. Rather it will reduce their anxiety and give them an outlet. It will also give you information that indicates how strongly they have considered suicide.
Listen. Allow them to express their feelings without judgment. Accept their feelings. Their feelings are neither good nor bad, just feelings. Do not act shocked by their thoughts, this will only create emotional distance
Look for red flags for suicidal behavior indicated by the phrase “IS PATH WARM?”
- Ideation – Threatened or communicated?
- Substance Abuse – Excessive or increased?
- Purposeless – No reason for living?
- Anxiety – Agitation/insomnia?
- Trapped – Feeling there is no way out
- Withdrawing – From friends, family and society
- Anger – Uncontrolled, rage, or seeking revenge
- Recklessness – Risky acts, unthinking
- Mood Changes
Take action. If you think the person might harm themselves, do not leave them alone. Remove any pills or guns. Recognize that you cannot single-handedly keep someone alive. Say, “I’m going to get you some help.” Then seek assistance from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
What to do if you are thinking about suicide
Get help! Remember that suicide is final – once it’s done, there is no changing your mind. If you are feeling suicidal, you are in more pain than you know how to handle. There are ways to reduce the pain and better methods of dealing with it. You can learn both. Let someone help you.