September is National Suicide Prevention Month and serves as a time to remember those who have been affected by suicide, raise awareness about the ongoing fight to live and save lives, and resources available for those who need it most. Peninsula Behavioral Health has been a longstanding provider of care to those suffering from mental illnesses that lead to suicidal thoughts and threats.
Tennessee’s suicide statistics trend high- er than the national rate. According to the latest data from the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, an average of three Tennesseans die by suicide every day. In 2019, 1,220 Tennesseans died by suicide; 90 percent of these individuals were white. Firearms were the most common method of suicide death. Males are three times more likely to die by suicide than females in Tennessee. The most at-risk group is from ages 45 to 64. Those living in rural areas die by suicide 1.4 times more than those
living in urban areas. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death in children and teenagers ages 10-24. This is more than the combined number of those who die from cancer and heart disease.
Nearly everyone has been affected by suicide, whether it be a personal loss or knowing someone else who experienced a loss. Awareness of the people around you goes a long way. Asking “Are you okay?” can go a long way in the effort to save lives. Here are some common signs that someone is considering suicide:
- Threats of suicide or statements revealing a desire to die.
- Withdrawal from friends and family.
- Previous suicide attempts or self-harm.
- Depression (crying, changes in sleeping/eating patterns, hopelessness, loss of interest in hobbies/activities).
- Making final arrangements (e.g., giving away prized possessions).
- Drastic changes in personality or behavior.
If you suspect someone is seriously thinking about ending his or her life, take it seriously.
- Be available. Listen to what they have to say and show your support and concern.
- Don’t ask why; this causes the person to respond defensively.
- Be non-judgmental and offer empathy, not sympathy.
- If possible, take action and remove objects such as guns or pills that could be used to inflict self-harm.
- Provide them with resources to get professional help.
To learn more about suicide in Tennessee and statewide efforts to save lives, visit TSPN.org.
Got Kids? Get the App!
“A Friend Asks” is a free smart-phone app with information, tools and resources for children and teens. It’s designed to help a younger generation help others who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. “A Friend Asks” includes warning signs, how to help a friend and how to get help. The app also delves into the basics of relating to someone who is considering suicide. Tools for knowing what to do and what not to do can give a young person the confidence to save a life. The app is available for both iPhone and Android mobile devices. “A Friend Asks” is safe, confidential and is a quick resource for immediate help in a time of crisis.
About Peninsula Behavioral Health
Peninsula Behavioral Health, a division of Parkwest Medical Center, is a member of Covenant Health, a not-for-profit healthcare delivery system serving East Tennessee and the surrounding region. A 155-bed behavioral health center is located in Blount County, with additional outpatient locations in Blount, Knox, Loudon and Sevier Counties. Inpatient and out- patient services are available for children, adolescents and adults. For more information, visit PeninsulaBehavioralHealth.org or call (865) 970-9800.
Navigating Grief After the Suicide Death of a Loved One
After losing a loved one to suicide, many are left with an ocean of grief and wonder how they could have prevented it. Peninsula Behavioral Health, a division of Parkwest Medical Center, offers a free support group to provide those grieving with a way to work through the pain. ComPASS, or Communicating the Pain as Suicide Survivors, provides a safe place of support where members gain understanding and education during the grief process. “Our [American] culture overall does not support real grieving,” says Mark Potts, director of clinical services for Peninsula. “The least understood and most avoided loss is loss by suicide. This avoidance of speaking about it contributes to risk factors
for suicide.” He says that if you know someone who has suffered a loss from suicide, try to get them to talk about what they’re feeling.
“People don’t know what to say or whether or not the grieving person wants to speak about it,” says Potts. “This is why ComPASS was created – to provide a space that it is accepted and understood that a loss to suicide is a unique loss and encourage them to talk about it.” ComPASS currently meets on the second Tuesday of each month from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. in person at Peninsula Lighthouse, 1451 Dowell Springs Blvd. Knoxville, TN 37909, lower level, and is open to the public. A Zoom link is available for those wanting to join from another location. The link is available at PeninsulaBehavioralHealth.com/Compass. To learn more or to PeninsulaBehavioralHealth.com/Compass or call (865) 374-7106.
I Need Help Now
If you find yourself in a crisis and struggling with thoughts of suicide, one call or text can bring real help and hope. The statewide crisis line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are open 24 hours a day, every day. Callers are connected to crisis centers in the areas where they live. Phone services are free of charge and available to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis.
For the Crisis Text Line: Text TN to 741741
Statewide Crisis Line: 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also offers a Spanish Language line at 1-888-628-9454.
To chat online: SuicidePreventionLifeline.org/Chat
Friendship Line for 60+ Adults: 1-800-971-0016
The Institute on Aging’s 24-hour toll-free Friendship Line is the only accredited crisis line in the country for people aged 60 years and older. Older people are less likely to contact traditional suicide prevention centers, so this line was created for those feeling lonely, depressed, isolated or suicidal.