Dear Editor:

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness month and Madison County Health Care System’s Senior Life Solutions team is working to raise awareness and educate the community on the risk factors and warning signs of suicide. Talk of suicide should never be dismissed. If you, or someone you know, are thinking of suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Senior Life Solutions is an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of senior adults living with symptoms of age-related depression or anxiety, dealing with difficult life transitions, a recent health diagnosis, or the loss of a loved one.

Having this discussion is never easy, not for either party. But it’s so important for your friend or loved one to know they have your support and that it’s okay to ask for help or say they’re struggling.

According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide and they are important to be aware of.

Several risk factors may include a preexisting mental disorder, alcohol or substance use disorder, impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies, major physical illness, job or financial loss, loss of relationship(s), access to lethal means, lack of social support and sense of isolation.

Don’t worry about what your response is because the words won’t come easy. Just be sure to respond and acknowledge the strength it took to start the conversation. 

The stigma associated with asking for help and a lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment, can also pose as risk factors to an individual. Senior Life Solutions works to lessen the stigma and increase access to behavioral healthcare.

Knowing these warning signs may help determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide: talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves; looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun; talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live; talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to others; increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawing or isolating themselves; showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; extreme mood swings.

For more information, or if an older loved one is in need of help, call Madison County Health Care System’s Senior Life Solutions program at 515-462-5120.

—Alysha Reynolds, RN 

Program Director, Senior Life Solutions