September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, so we talked with a local psychiatrist about what you can do if you know someone who may be struggling. The CDC says in 2016, around 45,000 people died from suicide. Dr. Peter Armendariz, a psychiatrist at Lawton Community Health Center, said that number is on the rise. Dr. Armendariz said 80% of people who die by suicide tell someone, in the last month of their life, that they want to die.
“They say things like ‘maybe this life has nothing to live for. I have nothing to live for.’ So we should pay attention to what people say regarding suicide and death,” he said.
What do you do if you hear a friend or loved one say something like that?
“The first thing that we can do is if somebody has mentioned that want to die is ask,” Dr. Armendariz said. “We’re afraid of asking but as tough as it might be, we need to ask ‘do you really want to kill yourself?’”
He says if they say “yes,” then you need to be there for them and take more steps to keep them safe.
“Most definitely help them connect,” Dr. Armendariz said. “There are numbers that we can use for suicide prevention. There’s a national lifeline, it’s a hotline for suicide prevention. There’s also a text that people can use, and there’s also a number for veterans and service members to help.”
Dr. Armendariz said people who are having suicidal thoughts might be abusing drugs, alcohol, are anxious and may have changes in their mood, behavior, and attitude. Talking about suicide isn’t easy, but it can save somebody’s life.
“Many times, I’d say most times, people are relieved to know that they get understood, that suicide thoughts and suicide drives are understood…not only by a mental health professional by anybody that says ‘hey, there’s help for this.’ Just that encounter might be lifesaving,” he said.
Dr. Armendariz suggests having the national suicide prevention lifeline saved on your phone. That number is 1-800-273-TALK.