“Everything was okay. Then suddenly it wasn’t.”
That heart-wrenching experience is sadly common for many families touched by suicide. To try to learn more about the thought processes that can lead to suicide, a group of 153 survivors were asked how much time passed between their thoughts of suicide to their attempt. Researchers learned that three of four people deliberated for less than one hour. At Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we believe suicide can be prevented. Below are practical steps you can take to try to save a life from suicide.
In 2021, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. In Arkansas, suicide is the third leading cause of death for children and the fifth leading cause of death for adults under age 65. Statistics like these can be overwhelming, but there is hope.
The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention estimates that for every person who dies by suicide, there are another 316 people who have seriously thought about suicide but haven’t attempted it, and nearly 60 who have survived a suicide attempt. While any death is tragic, the good news is that these numbers mean there’s potential to intervene, and why many behavioral health professionals believe that suicide is preventable.
There is a growing body of research looking into who is at the greatest risk of suicide. According to Dr. Bert Price, psychiatrist and medical director at Arkansas Blue Cross, “We’re still a long way from predicting when someone will attempt suicide.” Contributing risk factors are complex, and many warning signs do not seem like new behaviors, making suicide interventions difficult. Therefore, it’s important to understand the differences between risk factors and warning signs to know what to do if you’re ever in the position to help someone in crisis.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers an example we are more familiar with – a heart attack. Risk factors for a heart attack could include smoking or a poor diet, while warning signs for heart attack might be chest pain or shortness of breath. For suicide, Dr. Price points out that a previous attempt or having a family history of suicide are risk factors. Warning signs could include a sudden or extreme change in mood, increased drug or alcohol use, or threatening to hurt oneself. Dr. Price stresses, “we should always take someone at their word no matter how trivial the threat sounds.”
If you notice a sudden or new change in a person’s behavior, particularly after a painful event or loss, this could be a warning sign that a person is in crisis and needs help now. You can help. Call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24/7. This number can be used for anyone in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Anyone who calls 988 will be routed to regional crisis centers. In Arkansas, you will be connected to one of three centers based on call volume at each center.
Taking Action to Prevent Suicide
If you’re concerned about someone, the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has developed an evidenced-informed approach called #BeThe1To.
Five steps you can take to prevent suicide:
- Ask the person directly, “Are you having any thoughts about hurting yourself?” This lets the person know that you’re open to talking about it.
- Be there and help the person feel less alone. Try not to judge and listen to their reason for being in pain.
- Keep them safe by putting time and distance between them and any means they could use to hurt themselves. When lethal means are made less available, suicide rates by that method decrease substantially.
- Help them connect with others along with support resources (like the 988 Lifeline). You may want to ask if they are currently seeing a mental health professional or if they have done so in the past.
- Follow up with the person via text or call in the days/weeks that follow and ask if there’s anything they need. The simple act of reaching out reduces the risk of suicide.
For more information, visit bethe1to.com.
A Comprehensive Approach
Much like whole person health, suicide prevention requires a comprehensive approach which includes strategies that address both the individual and their community. At the individual level, Arkansas Blue Cross member safety is our top priority, and we are working with health professionals to build behavioral health resources to meet members where they are in their mental and behavioral health journey. Arkansas Blue Cross members have 24/7 access to New Directions Behavioral Health. Members in Arkansas can call 1-877-801-1159 to speak with a licensed behavioral health clinician who can help them access community-based behavioral health services. New Directions follows best practices and screens all callers for safety using evidence-based tools to ensure members receive the help they deserve. While connected, in-the-moment support is offered to members – such as creating a safety plan and connecting members to care with network providers and facilities. In addition to direct support, New Directions has developed a suicide prevention educational toolkit containing fact sheets and flyers at ndbh.com/suicide.
Blue & You Foundation
At the community level, the Blue & You Foundation has supported programs and initiatives in all 75 counties in Arkansas, helping Arkansans lead healthier lives. The Foundation recently invested $5.29 million into behavioral health programs, including UAMS ARConnectNOW, a free, virtual mental health program offering Arkansans of all ages help with mental health issues. AR ConnectNow provides the support you need to overcome any obstacle you face, from common stress to substance abuse to depression.
Whether you have a chronic mental health condition or are struggling with a new issue, you can call AR ConnectNow 24 hours a day, seven days a week to schedule an appointment with a licensed therapist. During your sessions, your therapist will provide the comprehensive behavioral health treatment you need for your mental, emotional and physical wellness.
No insurance is required, and no referral is necessary. All you need is a computer, tablet or phone to connect with AR ConnectNow.
One last thing you can do? Share this article with your friends and family. By doing so, you help raise awareness about suicide prevention. If you’re having doubts about reaching out to someone, Dr. Price says that asking about suicide will not plant the idea in their mind. Instead, you are normalizing the conversation. “Be open to discussion and let the person know help is available. You could save a life.”
|If you or a loved one is in crisis, please contact one of the numbers below.
Counselors are available to help you 24/7.
|Important Crisis Phone Numbers|
|Suicide Prevention Resources|
|Arkansas Blue Cross Members:|
Employee Assistance Program (EAP): 1-800-624-5544
(EAP is not covered on all plans. Check with your HR administrator or sign in to blueprintportal.com for covered services available to you.)