Suicide and poisoning: Prevention strategies

Suicide is a complex issue involving multiple factors. According to the Surgeon General’s 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, “There is no single path that will lead to suicide. Rather, throughout life, a combination of factors, such as a serious mental illness, alcohol abuse, a painful loss, exposure to violence, or social isolation may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”

Preventing suicides requires programs that reduce these negative factors and promote resilience and supportive relationships during difficult times. On a personal level, we need to be able to recognize warning signs of suicide and keep the person safe until they get help from a trained professional.

Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die; feeling hopeless, trapped, or in unbearable pain; feeling like a burden to others
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • 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

The more warning signs a person has, the greater the risk of suicide. If you think someone is at risk, do not leave them alone. Be sure to remove firearms and poisons (such as medications), call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and take the person to the emergency department or connect them with a medical or mental health clinic.

If you live with someone who has a history of substance abuse or suicidal behavior, always keep firearms and other lethal items in a locked cabinet, and buy only small quantities of medications you need and store them in a locked box. Dispose of unwanted medications frequently – participate in local medication take back events.

To learn more about suicide prevention programs and recommendations read the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action.

If you have questions about a possible poisoning, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 or chat online.

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