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How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Rutgers University was rocked by the suicide of a teenager after a video of him was streamed online this past week. Earlier this year, 25-year old Erica Blasberg, a professional golfer, committed suicide and former American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino also attempted it.

Suicide is the 11th-leading cause of death in the U.S, but the fourth-leading cause of death among for those between ages 18 and 65. Of the approximately 34,000 Americans who commit suicide each year, most will give warning signs. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, knowing how to recognize the symptoms of suicide and what to do about them can protect yourself and those close to you.

Warning Signs

1. Depressive symptoms:

  • Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
  • Desperation
  • Hopelessness
  • Pessimism
  • Sleep problems
  • Unrelenting low mood
  • Withdrawal

2. Increased alcohol intake and drug abuse.

3. Recent impulsiveness and unnecessary risk taking.

4. Threats of suicide and expressing a strong wish to die.

5. Making a plan to die:

  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Buying a weapon, poisons or drugs to commit suicide.

6. Unexpected rage or anger

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Also, some medical conditions are risk factors for committing suicide such as major depression, eating disorders, drug or alcohol abuse, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

What to Do If You're at Risk
Early recognition of these signs and intervention is essential to prevent suicide. First, never play down these warning signs or assume they're not serious. Do not feel ashamed or guilty about how you feel.

Speak to a trusted family member or friend, or consult a counselor such as a psychotherapist or psychiatrist who can listen and provide support and advice. At any time of the day, you can also contact these professionals online for telephone counseling sessions, so you never have to feel that you're alone and without support. Others who can offer support include family members or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

If you have an illness that's a risk factor for suicide, make sure you remain under the care of a qualified medical professional. Take your medications as advised or go to counseling if it's part of your recovery or treatment program. Give medications enough time to work; some may not make a difference right away. If medications are causing undesirable side effects, speak with your doctor about alternatives.

What to Do If Your Loved One Is at Risk
Again, once you notice the symptoms, act swiftly. Let your loved one know that you are there to listen to her without judgment any time she's ready to speak about her problems. Suggest to your loved one to see a doctor for a medical assessment to determine if there's an underlying illness that's contributing to the suicidal thoughts, such as depression. If it's your child who is at risk, insist on it. The doctor may recommend seeing a psychotherapist in LA or another mental health professional.

Don't try to argue or guilt someone out of suicidal thoughts, advises the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Avoid telling your loved one how much his suicide would hurt others. If the warning signs are glaring and it seems as if your loved one is in immediate danger, do not leave him on his own. Take him to a walk-in clinic or an emergency room or call the 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

Empowering Questions

  • What healthy, effective coping patterns do you rely on when you feel overwhelmed?
  • Who are the key people in your life that you can turn to when you're feeling lonely, overwhelmed or depressed?

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The Center for Personal Development and Psychotherapy specializes in telephone and face-to-face counseling, treating individuals and couples seeking to improve their relationships. Counseling with Dr. Stollman is designed to help patients in dealing with a wide range of psychological issues. Whether you're looking for Los Angeles marriage counseling or someone to talk to about your depression, Dr. Stollman can help.

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