What Is Suicide?
Suicide is when people direct violence at themselves with the intent to end their lives, and they die because of their actions.
A suicide attempt is when people harm themselves with the intent to end their lives, but they do not die because of their actions.
Are you feeling suicidal?
You are not alone; many of us have had suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives. Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it does not mean that you are crazy, weak, or flawed. It only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. This pain seems overwhelming and permanent now. However, with time and support, you can overcome your problems and the pain and suicidal feelings will pass.
Someone may experience a crisis that seems overwhelming or cause them to consider suicide. The most critical period is during the first 48 hours from the onset of the crisis, and proper intervention and support may allow the crisis to recede. It is important for us to understand the risk factors of suicide and suicide indicators to be better prepared to assist others and ourselves. Suicide prevention is possible and consists of effective intervention and controlling risk factors.
The risk factors that contribute to suicides can be categorized as external stressors and mental health, past exposure to suicides, and other non-categorized risk factors.
External stressors include:
- Relationship issues
- Job-related issues
- Financial stress
- Death of a loved one
- Health issues
- Other adverse life events
Mental health risk factors for firefighters include:
- Post-traumatic stress or critical incident stress
- Mental illness
- Loss of hope
- Loss of self-esteem
- Physical or sexual abuse
- The feeling of being a burden
- Intent to die
Other risk factors for suicide include:
- Health issues
- Access to lethal means
- Alcohol abuse
Suicide is a national problem; in fact, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it is one of the top 10 causes of death in most age groups. In 2018, 93 firefighters died in the line of duty. The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance reports that 139 were reported to have died from suicide in the same time, and these numbers are likely under-reported due to the stigma surrounding suicide. This means that firefighters were nearly 1.5 times more likely to die from suicide than they were to die in the line of duty.
Indicators and Warning Signs
Many people who have committed suicide had given definitive signals or indicators that they intended to commit suicide. These indicators or warning signs are considered suicidal communication and can be in the form of verbal statements, or expressed as emotions or actions. The more of these warning signs that are present, the higher the risk of suicide. Some warning signs are more serious, serve as a stronger indicator than others, and should receive greater attention.
The following warning signs of suicide are indicators that a person may be in acute danger and need urgent help.
- Talking about wanting to die or to killing oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
- Giving away possessions
- Difficulties at work
- Neglecting appearance
It is important that observed indicators be addressed early and often. We all at GRFD must take action and not cringe at the task of having a difficult conversation with a fellow employee who is not focused because of a personal problem.
Effective initial intervention consists of the following:
- Active listening
- Being empathetic
- Being non-judgmental
Many people avoid talking about suicide for various reasons. Asking a fellow firefighter if they are considering suicide, or otherwise talking about suicide, will provide a starting point for identifying solutions
To determine a firefighter’s intent on suicide, ask questions about if the firefighter has access to lethal means, if the firefighter has a plan on how to commit suicide, and if the firefighter has determined when to commit suicide.
Early intervention provides the best chances of success and allows someone to get help before a point of crisis is reached.
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF)
The NFFF has created “ACT Now! Ask. Care. Take” as part of their efforts to support its Initiative 13: Psychological Support, which is one of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives to reduce firefighter fatalities.
Per the NFFF, we can do the following for a co-worker in need:
- Listen carefully
- Assess the situation sufficiently to avoid under or overreacting
- Offer friendship and understanding
- Suggest alternatives to suicide
- Suggest professional assistance
- Remove any stressful obstacles
- Validate his or her feelings: “I know that given the conditions you are against, people may consider suicide. Let’s work on some alternative options for you.”
- Remove the person who has serious suicidal tendencies from the workplace
- Call the police or bring the distressed person to a hospital, if necessary
- Do whatever is needed if a life is on the line
The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance created a short 16 question self-screening questionnaire for firefighters to determine how they are doing or if they need counseling or assistance. At the end of the 16 yes or no questions are specific recommendations based on the answers.
Visit http://www.ffbha.org/ for the survey, do a personal mental check-up for yourself, and follow the recommendations. It may just save your life!
Click the button below to begin the Self-Assessment Questionnaire.
Everyone Goes Home
Initiative 13 means that firefighters and EMS professionals and their families must have the resources to deal with the various complications that their jobs can bring to their lives, especially issues regarding emotional and psychological stress. Follow the link to learn more about Everyone Goes Home.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness commit them to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention.
FOR AN EMERGENCY SITUATION NEEDING ASSISTANCE ASAP – CONTACT 911
The information provided is just a resource and should never be substituted for professional help.
If you are in need of assistance, please click the Jorgensen Brooks – EAP button to get information about the resources available.