(WPRI) — In a matter of days, two prominent public figures lost their lives to suicide.
- Parent Guide: Suicide Prevention »
Both deaths – confirmed suicides – have reignited a national conversation about the issue.
Data shows the rates in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are higher than the national average.
In Massachusetts, rates were up by more than 35 percent and in Rhode Island, up by more 34 percent.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, the state’s annual suicide total is more than four times our homicide total.
Last year, at least 120 lost their lives to suicide in Rhode Island, though the department adds that figure is still considered a preliminary number and does not include some deaths from poisoning and medication, in which intent could not be determined.
“If a person is struggling or in a moment of crisis, it is essential that we connect that person to health services and care in the same way we would if they were experiencing a physical ailment, free of judgment,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the RI Department of Health. “Everyone should be educated about the warning signs of suicide. Each of us should feel empowered to call the National Suicide Lifeline if someone’s speech, behaviors, or moods makes us think that they might be considering suicide: 1-800-273-TALK.”
Denise Panichas is the executive director of The Samaritans of Rhode Island.
The organization provides information about suicide prevention, grief support, and education.
She and the group’s mission is to let people know there is help available for everyone.
“Suicide can affect anyone, and it’s so unfortunate that we lost two national figures to suicide. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness that depression is treatable, and suicide is preventable,” said Panichas.
Panichas says there are three things to know about those who are suicidal.
“They are hopeless, they believe that no one cares if they live or die, and in the end, they think they’re doing everyone a favor,” said Panichas.
Panichas adds in some cases, you may not know someone is suffering, but you can look for physical signs, too.
“There are many health problems that can present themselves as depression that can be very treatable. We encourage everyone to talk to your primary care doctor about what you’re going through,” added Panichas.
According to The Samaritans’ website, depressed or suicidal feelings are often expressed in the following ways:
- Talking about, writing about, hinting at or threatening suicide (such threats precede four out of five deaths by suicide)
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Drastic changes in personality (for example, a person might become rebellious or reckless)
- Losing interest in favorite activities
- Sleeping too much or too little
- No appetite of overeating
- Previous suicide attempts
- Giving away prized possessions
- Fatigue, lethargy or apathy
- Doing poorly in school
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Drastic changes in appearance
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Conflicts with friends and family
Panichas says those who can help with suicide prevention can start anywhere a person feels cared for.
“So every program, be it a church, a temple, an after-school program, you know you’re playing cards with your friends, that is all suicide prevention,” said Panichas.