SIDNEY — Suicide impacts every race, every religion, every gender, every age, and income and educational level.
“Suicide is more powerful because it is almost invisible, and we as citizens and loved ones of those persons need to be looking for the signs and talking to them. We know when our family and friends are having some tough things going on in their life. Certainly talk to them about that,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview.
Nationwide, Lenhart said, there are 1.1 million suicide attempts annually and about 123 suicides per day. He said 51 percent of suicides are carried out by firearms. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 to 24 and the 10th leading cause of Americans. Lenhart noted that African American children are twice as likely to commit suicide than white children, members of the LGBT community are three times more likely than heterosexual individuals, boys are 76 percent more likely than girls, and that 22.2 percent of veterans commit suicide.
“In Shelby County in 2017, we received 51 calls and/or attempts of suicide; three actual deaths. And in 2018, so far, we’ve had 46 calls or attempts, and one death,” Lenhart said. “We need to spread sincere and meaningful ways to focus on the idea that people are having obviously temporary problems. And they are temporary. They are not permanent issues that people have.”
He said those who are struggling need to reach out for help. People considering suicide can call the 9-1-1 dispatch, the Tri-County Mental Health help line at 800-351 7347, the Shelby County 2-1-1 information number to find or speak with someone who will be more than glad to listen and help, Lenhart said.
People of faith should be talking to their minister, priest or rabbi, he said.
“If someone is talking about suicide, you need to take them seriously. They need to be talking to you and other people to help find help and support. They need to be telling their family members, their pastors, their friends, their co-workers or a professional about what is going on in their lives to make them think that way,” Lenhart said.
Some warning signs Lenhart shared to recognize if someone is contemplating suicide include people who:
• Talk about killing themself.
• Talk about being a burden to others.
• Speak about feeling trapped.
• Speak about some pain they are going though.
• Have behavioral changes.
• Increase the use of alcohol or drugs.
• Search for online materials or methods to kill themself.
• Begin acting reckless with their life.
• Isolate themself from family and friends.
• Sleep too much or too little.
• Visit and call others saying “good bye.”
• Have mood changes, loss of interest of life, or becomes enraged or irritable.
“Certainly reach out to those people and start getting them help,” said Lenhart. “The other thing we would ask citizens to do is to be an advocate for talking about suicide and prevention. Whether you are a pastor, you are a teacher, a First Responder, a government leader. These are all our friends and loved ones that are doing this to themselves so we should be reaching out to help them.”
“Listen and then listen some more,” he continued. “Pay close attention to how people express themselves. Listen for ways of how people communicate an emotional state. If you think a person might be considering harming themselves, ask them. Don’t be bashful in talking about the subject matter.”
Lenhart said to invite people who are lonely or you suspect could be considering suicide out to eat or to family functions to show them they matter. He emphasized the importance of staying with these people. People with depression who isolate themselves due to mental illness are at the highest risk of committing suicide, he noted.
“The bottom line message is prevention. Look at what is going on around us. Don’t hesitate to ask. Don’t hesitate to get involved,” Lenhart said. “It effects all of us. When you see those, hear about it and read about, and perhaps I know (someone who committed suicide) you just wonder what you could have done or what somebody could have done. It is our responsibility to those who are hurting to see if we can help them in some fashion or get them help.”
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.