Lake Stevens Journal - Your hometown newspaper since 1960


By Pam Stevens
Managing Editor 

Suicide is preventable, how you can help


September 17, 2013

The Snohomish Health District sent me some information last week regarding suicides in Snohomish County. I was surprised to see that approximately 80 people take their own lives in Snohomish County each year. Comparatively, traffic deaths within the county average only 53 per year.

This number is staggering to me and includes people of all ages.

“Suicide is a public health problem,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Health Officer and Director of the Snohomish Health District. “Although suicide is preventable, it is a complex problem that demands comprehensive approaches involving not just the mental health community, but all of us.”

Suicide has hit my family personally when eight years ago my cousin’s 11-year-old son took his own life.

It devastated my family and my cousin has not been the same since this tremendous loss. While she has picked up the pieces and has done incredibly well at keeping life as normal as possible for her other two children, it is still something she lives with everyday.

Seeing these numbers within my own community is heart-wrenching and hopefully, if we know what to do, we can help stop another person from thinking life isn’t worth living.

Snohomish Health District gives the following suggestions:

• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255 (TALK);

• Do not leave the person alone, and listen without judging;

• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt;

• Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.

Also, watch for warning signs which can include the following:

• Talking about wanting to die or making a plan;

• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;

• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain;

• Talking about being a burden to others;

• Increasing use of alcohol or drugs;

• Depression such as moodiness or withdrawal;

• Displaying extreme mood swings.

You are the best resource for recognizing these risk factors in your family and close friends. It may be hard for a teacher or neighbor to know if their behavior is normal or out of character for this person.

Watch for the risk factors as well.

• Prior suicide attempt;

• Alcohol and drug abuse;

• Mood and anxiety disorders, such as depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Snohomish County Health District is concerned about the local suicide rates and have made it a priority to investigate the problem and come up with solutions.

“The Health District and the Public Health Advisory Council have organized and are facilitating local community-based health improvement planning groups to examine priority public health issues. Suicide among youth and adults is one of the top three issues. The Suicide group will be making program, policy and system recommendations targeted at decreasing Snohomish County suicide rates.”

If you are ever concerned about someone and their well-being, it is better to make that call to the suicide prevention line than to think that maybe you are wrong.


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