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CT Aims to Keep People Safe During Suicide Prevention Month

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Friday, September 16, 2022   

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, which spotlights the issues in Connecticut and across the U.S.

Although suicide rates in Connecticut are low, there still are ways to prevent those deaths.

Andrea Duarte, co-chair of the Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board, said it can be challenging for physicians to spot signs that a person might be considering suicide.

While a physician might suspect there is something wrong from changes in patients' health, there are other methods of seeing how close someone is to committing suicide.

But, Duarte said, how a person thinks of suicide can change depending on their current circumstances.

"Some people may struggle chronically with suicidal thinking - just like you have a chronic, other type of disease," said Duarte. "And there will be ups and downs and ebbs and flows to that, and sometimes you'll have increased levels of severity and sometimes you'll have less. It's important to understand the spectrum of thinking."

One tool that has become easy for physicians to utilize is the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale. This is a short list of questions that can tell a clinician where a person's mental health is at that moment.

Doing this can help a doctor understand the right course of action for providing a person with the proper course of mental-health treatment.

Although mental health has come a long way over the last decade, there are some worries over stigmas surrounding suicide. According to Mental Health America, about 25% of adults in the U.S. are experiencing some kind of mental illness.

Duarte said she finds that despite the progress made to destigmatize mental health, there's more to be done.

"Sometimes, it depends on population," said Duarte. "You can have certain populations that feel that having a mental illness or poor mental health is a sign of weakness or that thinking of suicide is a sign of weakness. Or, even is against a religion. So, there's a lot of stigma built up around mental health."

Duarte said it doesn't have anything to do with weakness. Rather, people might be traumatized from their current circumstances resulting in poor mental health, or a history of trauma.

It can be challenging to overcome these stigmas due to the culture that has built up over the years. She said that just as with physical health, everyone has mental health.

In July, the National Suicide Hotline established a simpler phone number for people to call - 988. However, Connecticut residents have multiple options for reaching the National Suicide Hotline - such as dialing 211 or using the original Suicide Hotline number.

She said she hopes people will understand that dialing this number isn't just for those with severe thoughts of suicide, but for those on the spectrum of suicidal thinking.

"It's important that people understand that the majority of people who call," said Duarte, "are not necessarily having to be referred for what we call an active rescue because they're not at imminent risk."

Duarte said she hopes anyone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts does contact 988 or look into mental-health treatment options. For more information, visit preventsuicidect.org.




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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that law enforcement officers and firefighters are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty (elvis santana/Adobe Stock)

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