September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and Jessie Parker a crisis counselor with Encompass Health Services for 15 years, says it’s important to shine a spotlight on this growing problem.
During his 15 years as a crisis counselor Parker has seen the suicide rates trend upward in the United States. “And that’s too bad,” said Parker, “because suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2016, 44,965 people died by suicide in the United States. That number is up from 42,773 in 2014.
In fact the U.S. suicide rate has increased 24 percent since 1999. In 1999 the suicide rate in the U.S. was 10.5 per 100,000 people. In 2014 that number rose to 13.0 per 100,000 the highest rate recorded in 28 years. In April 2016, the CDC reported that the suicide rate in the U.S. had hit a 30-year high.
One of the most alarming trends is the increase in suicides among young people. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24 and the third leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 14. For people 65 and older, suicide has increased to the point where it’s now the number one cause of death.
In the Page community there are approximately three suicide attempts per week, according to Encompass Health Services.
“So who is at risk for suicide?” asks Parker. “Successful people, young people, middle age people, the elderly, the academically gifted high school students, regular students and struggling students. Talented people and untalented people.
“Suicide occurs across all ethnic, economic, social and age boundaries. Nearly everyone, at some point in his or her life, thinks about suicide.”
Encompass wants the Page community to know it’s there for them if they’re having suicidal thoughts. They can call the crisis line or come into the facility.
“Once a person walks in who’s in crisis we evaluate their level of need,” said Parker. “Some people may be having thoughts of suicide, but have no immediate plans to act. But others may need more immediate attention. We’ll give them whatever amount of help they need.”
No one who comes to their facility for help will be turned away, said Parker, even if they don’t have insurance, even if they need ongoing services.
“The last thing we want to do is send a suicidal person back on the street,” said Parker.
Parker compares the impulse to commit suicide to one card in a deck of cards.
“But there are other cards in the deck, too,” said Parker. “Those cards might be loving parents and grandparents, supportive teachers or church leaders. Some cards are coping mechanisms.
“Events happen in a person’s life that reshuffles the deck, and every so often the suicide card comes up. When we’re young we only have a few cards in our deck, that represent coping skills. As we grow older our coping skills and capabilities increase.”
The societal stigma around suicide often prevents people from seeking help, said Parker.
“Oftentimes people who may be having suicidal thoughts are afraid to seek help,” said Parker. “That’s too bad because we can help. There are a lot of people walking around Page today who felt suicidal at some earlier point in their life. But they sought help, and received help and they’re back in society today.
“Sometimes they get through the problem that was making them feel suicidal and they return to normal. But, for a lot of people there is no return to normal, but we can still help them adjust to the new normal.”
For people contemplating suicide, intervention is crucial, said Parker.
“With intervention, most everyone decides to live because they realize that the crisis they’re experiencing is temporary.”
The local suicide crisis line is 928-645-8180. The national suicide crisis line is 1-800-273-8255.