On the edge

Heather Hall

Heather Hall

Many youth today are “on the edge” and don’t know where to turn or whom to talk to. Suicide is a very serious issue that doesn’t receive the direct attention that it needs. Many people are still unaware of the consequences, signs and preventive measures to take when faced personally or a friend that has talked about suicide.

La Quita Simons-Olson, a counselor at Student Health in West Hall, said she has seen the signs before.

“Any type of verbal or written threat should be paid attention to and shouldn’t be ignored,” she said.

Simons-Olson listed some specific signs to pay attention to because they are often accompanied by a person who is thinking about committing suicide.

If there have been any previous attempts at suicide, the person usually is a risk-taker, has a preoccupation with death, appears to have self-hate, puts themselves down, isolates themselves, withdraws from friends and family, only focuses on problems, is hostile or belligerent with peers, has mood swings with sudden outbursts and has trouble keeping commitments and making deadlines.

“It’s almost as if they don’t have a problem, the problem has them,” Simons-Olson said.

Some other signs are a shift in the quality of the person’s schoolwork, a lack of any close contacts, giving away possessions and a sudden period of cheerfulness after a long period of depression.

“All of these signs are signs that someone might be contemplating suicide,” Simons-Olson said.

The problem with suicide is most people hide it because they don’t want anyone to know, she said. They act cheerful because they have solved their problems with the idea of suicide. They usually have a set plan and think that sticking to the plan is the only way out. When the actual plan is carried out, it is an impulsive act.

Men and women go about suicide differently.

“Women will usually overdose or cut on themselves. Men have a tendency to use weapons, use a car, or rarely you’ll hear that a man has hung himself,” Simons-Olson said.

Her best advice is to talk to someone. “Tell someone, tell a professional, tell anyone close to them that can help.”

The person will be angry and hostile, but your efforts could possibly save his/her life.

The worst thing is when someone says something about suicide and someone doesn’t believe him/her. Then the person feels that they have to prove the seriousness of their threats. Simons-Olson gave some tips to avoid this from happening.

“Don’t be judgmental, don’t leave them alone, and don’t panic,” she said. The person might feel more comfortable talking to a counselor because that person is unbiased towards the thoughts and actions of the affected teen.

Sometimes suicidal thoughts come from stimulants, when someone completely stops taking their anti-depressants is causes a chemical imbalance in the brain.

“It’s like pulling the rug out from under you,” Simons-Olson said.

As a counselor she recommends a combination of antidepressants and therapy for someone who has suicidal thoughts.

There are also places in town that can help. The East Central Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Center have services for those that are suicidal.

Heidi Evers, a child and family services therapist there, found some startling information from the American Academy of Pediatrics website.

“Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among teens regardless of age, sex or race. It is the third leading cause of teens between the ages of 15 and 24,” she said.

She agreed with Simons-Olson by saying that most of the time with suicide there is depression and the inability to cope.

The center has a wide variety of services including a 24-hour emergency line that anyone can call and reach a staff member after hours by a pager. The main number for the center is 697-2850. They also have family and children as well as adult outpatient services. The alcohol and drug unit also provides education and prevention for those in need.

“If you think that a person is suicidal, we can do an evaluation anytime day or night,” Evers said.

She also suggested to take comments or threats seriously. “If they do make a threat take it seriously whether you think they’re joking or not.”

When a threat is made it is important that the friends stay with that person and seek professional help, she said.

The most important thing anyone can do to help someone who is going through this is to listen.

“To listen is a lifeline, if we can’t help that person ourself, then we’ll get them help,” Simons-Olson said.

Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about suicide. All you’re doing is pulling them away from the thought of suicide, not towards it, she said.