KDA Today

KDA Today

For Immediate Release

Date: Dec 14th, 2009
Contact: By Todd R. Cheever, MD, University of Kentucky Department of Psychiatry

There is Hope: Suicide Awareness and Prevention in Kentucky

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to the Blue Grass Dental Society about suicide prevention.  During that presentation, I spoke as a practicing psychiatrist and as the current Chair of the Kentucky Suicide Prevention Group, or KSPG. KSPG is made up of mental health providers, individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide and other concerned citizens working together to advocate for suicide prevention efforts as well as providing educational programs regarding suicide prevention across our state.  Additional information about the work of KSPG can be found at www.kentuckysuicideprevention.org.

 

The sobering reality is that, as of 2006, Kentucky ranks 12th in terms of suicide completion making this a significant public health issue for our state. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Kentuckians 15- to 34-years old and the fourth leading cause of death for 35- to 54-year olds. Firearms are the most common method of suicide completion for many groups (male, female, elderly, black and white).

 

The encouraging news is that there are steps that you can take in order to decrease the number of deaths by suicide. There are myths surrounding suicide that still exist today, even among healthcare professionals. Some of these misconceptions include “only mental health providers can prevent suicide” and “asking someone if they are suicidal will only make things worse and increase the risk of suicide.” Although mental health providers play a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with suicidal thoughts, suicide prevention is everyone’s business.  Asking someone directly about suicidal intent decreases anxiety, encourages communication and lowers the risk of an impulsive act.

 

Many individuals dealing with suicidal thoughts have diagnosable psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder or substance-related issues. Research has demonstrated that issues surrounding suicide are complex and multifactorial. Early identification and treatment, in the form of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy when indicated, will often treat the underlying psychiatric issues which may ultimately lead to a reduction in suicidal thoughts and acts.

 

There are a number of things that you can do to help reduce deaths by suicide in Kentucky. A good way to begin is to take a brief suicide awareness and prevention course. KSPG offers a free program called Question, Persuade and Refer, or QPR for short. QPR helps participants recognize the signs and symptoms that an individual may be having suicidal thoughts and provides practical ways of offering support as that individual is directed to help.  For individuals who have suffered the loss of a patient, colleague, family member or friend to suicide, grief counseling, in the form of individual counseling or a Survivors of Suicide support group, may be helpful.

 

By increasing our knowledge about suicide prevention and by asking those around us if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts during difficult times, we are able to offer the single most important thing we can to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts – hope for the future.

 

 

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