Healthbeat: Awareness and education could decrease growing suicide rate in U.S.

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — A new government report shows suicide rates in the U.S. were rising even before the pandemic. The findings by the Centers for Disease Control show suicide rates rose by 22-percent in a decade long study ending in 2017.

The causes of suicide can be very complex. But researchers say there are ways all of us can better equip ourselves to intervene and save lives.

Suicide claims more lives than natural disasters, wars and homicides combined. It’s the number one cause of death for adolescent girls worldwide. And now with U.S. suicide rates, researchers say a myth must be debunked: that talking about suicide somehow puts the idea in someone’s head.

“If you talk about suicide, you’ll actually increase people’s awareness and education about the signs and symptoms to look for if one of their friends are at risk,” Dr. Keita Franklin, the co-director, at The Columbia Lighthouse Project said.

Dr. Franklin and Dr. Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber are with The Columbia Lighthouse Project. Its mission is to identify suicide risk and provide free online training to help intervene when someone appears vulnerable.  

“We need to be asking questions the way we monitor for blood pressure or do vision testing and we need to do that well beyond the doctor’s office. Neighbor, friend, peer, teacher — because that’s the first, most important line of defense,” Dr. Gerstenhaber told Eyewitness News.

“You’ll show that you care by saying things like I worry about you, I’m concerned about you, I see certain signs in your behavior recently,” said Dr. Franklin.

The Columbia Lighthouse Project and what’s called the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale combine for a life-saving objective: reaching out and asking a few simple questions can save lives.

“People need to connect. It’s part of our human nature to want to connect with others. And social support and connection is really also just as important as mental health and medical care when it comes to suicide risk,” Dr. Franklin said.

“When people are suffering, they actually want help. Asking does not only not cause somebody to be suicidal it actually reduces distress. When people are suffering, they need you to ask,” said Dr. Gerstenhaber.

You can learn more about The Columbia Lighthouse Project and find the Columbia-Suicide’s Severity Rating Scale on their website.

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