September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is important to know that suicidal thoughts, often the result of a mental health condition, affect people of all ages, races and backgrounds. These thoughts are considered a psychiatric emergency requiring immediate help from a mental healthcare provider.

The mental health conditions which cause suicidal thoughts can be successfully treated.

In Arizona, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the eighth leading overall cause of death and the first leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14. Almost four times as many people die by suicide in our state annually than by homicide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, lists the following warning signs of suicide:

  • Increased alcohol and drug use.
  • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community.
  • Dramatic mood swings from despair to aggression to calm.
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death.
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior.
  • Putting affairs in order and giving away possessions.
  • Threats or comments about killing oneself. These can be thoughts like, “I wish I wasn’t here,” or they may be more specific and direct.
  • Planning. Possibly trying to buy, steal or borrow tools to commit suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication.

People with suicidal thoughts often feel shame about them, but suicidal thoughts do not mean someone is weak or bad – only that he or she needs help, now. Families and friends need to know that talking honestly about suicide and getting help does not “give someone the idea” to attempt suicide.

Kim Alexander, clinical manager of Flagstaff Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Unit, will speak at this year’s “Out of the Darkness” suicide awareness and prevention community walk from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff. The day before the walk, Kim will be inducted into Northern Arizona University’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Hall of Fame for her amazing contributions to the Northern Arizona community’s behavioral health over the last 15 years.

The expert mental health professionals at Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Department can help you or your loved one assess the risk of suicide and begin immediate treatment. We offer a full range of hospital-based inpatient and outpatient services for adolescents, adults and seniors who experience suicidal thoughts and other mental health and behavioral problems.

In addition to treating behavioral health and substance abuse issues, we also help you access additional resources and healthcare specialties to help you achieve lasting recovery.

For help and information in Flagstaff, please call Outpatient Services at 928-213-6400 or the Psychiatry Clinic at 928-213-6415.

In the Verde Valley, call Verde Valley Medical Clinic – Behavioral Health & Psychiatry at 928-649-7925.

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