Swain Community Hospital Senior Life Solutions Program Raising Awareness During National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month

September 3, 2018

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness month. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-8255.

The issue of suicide is a very difficult topic to address – and, unfortunately, it is on the rise. A recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows suicide rates increasing by 25 percent over nearly two decades through the end of 2016. Data from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention indicates suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. – with nearly 45,000 Americans taking their own lives each year.

Recent suicide deaths of prominent fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrated chef and author Anthony Bourdain have exposed the critical fact that suicide does not discriminate and shined a brighter light on the role that mental illness plays in suicide. Approximately 90 percent of individuals who die from suicide suffer or have suffered from some form of mental illness.

Swain Community Hospital provides the Senior Life Solutions program to western North Carolina. Led by a psychiatrist and licensed therapists, Senior Life Solutions is an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of older adults suffering from symptoms of anxiety and depression often related to aging. The Senior Life Solutions program staff is trained in the use of standardized, evidence-based tools for screening patients at risk of suicide. In addition, the staff assists the patient to create a plan to prevent future suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts.

“It’s important we let people know about support and resources available to help them. And that it is okay to ask for help. If you know someone who is in crisis or considering suicide, don’t delay in reaching out,” said Amanda Fugate, RN and program director for Senior Life Solutions. “Talk of suicide should never be dismissed.”

According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), the most recognizable signs of potential suicide are:

  • Threats or comments about killing themselves, which can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like, “I wish I wasn’t here” but become bolder and more dangerous;
  • Increased alcohol and drug use;
  • Aggressive behavior;
  • Social withdrawal from friends, loved ones and the community;
  • Dramatic mood swings;
  • Talking, writing or thinking about death; and
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior.

While risk factors can vary, there are some commonalities among suicide victims, including:

  • A family history of suicide;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Access to firearms;
  • Serious or chronic medical illness;
  • Gender (more women attempt suicide than men, but men are four times more likely to die from their attempt);
  • A history of trauma or abuse;
  • Prolonged stress;
  • Isolation;