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Observed on September 10 each year, World Suicide Prevention Day provides an opportunity to raise the world’s awareness of an ongoing fight to live and to save lives. Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center, joins in the observation as a long-standing provider of care for those suffering from mental illnesses that sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts and threats.
The statistics on suicide in Tennessee are staggering. According to the latest data available, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network reports an average of three people die by suicide in Tennessee every day.
The group most at risk in Tennessee is men between the ages of 45 and 64. Suicide tends to be more common in rural areas where mental health resources like clinics, therapists and hospitals with psychiatric units are not easily accessible.
According to that same data, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among children and teens ages 10 to 19. In any given year, more teenagers and young adults die by suicide in our state compared to all deaths from cancer and heart disease combined.
Nearly everyone has either been impacted by suicide or knows someone who has. Being aware of the people around you and simply asking the question, “Are you okay?” can go a long way in the effort to save lives and restore quality of life.
Here are some of the most common signs that someone is considering suicide:
- Threats of suicide or statements revealing a desire to die.
- Previous suicide attempts or self-harm.
- Depression (crying, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, hopelessness, or loss of interest in hobbies and 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 own life, don’t panic, but do take it seriously.
- Discuss suicide openly and directly.
- Listen. Show your sup- port and concern.
- If possible, remove objects such as guns or pills that could be used to inflict self-harm.
- Get professional help.
To learn more about suicide in Tennessee and statewide efforts to save lives, visit www.tspn.org/sost.
Help is Available 24/7
If you or a loved one are 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 every day. Callers are connected to crisis centers in the areas where they live.
These services are free of charge and available to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis:
Statewide Crisis Line: 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Spanish): 1-888-628-9454
Crisis Text Line: Text TN to 741741
To chat online: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
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 student the confidence to save a life. The app is available for both iPhone and An- droid. “A Friend Asks” is safe, it’s confidential and is a quick resource for immediate help in a time of crisis.
Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center, sets the standard for mental health services in East Tennessee. In its 48-year history, Peninsula has helped thousands of people recover from disorders and dependencies to lead healthy, positive and productive lives.
Peninsula offers inpatient services in Blount County. Outpatient services are also available Knox, Blount, Loudon and Sevier Counties. Seniors with co-existing psychiatric and medical condition receive care at the Senior Behavioral Center located at Parkwest Medical Center.
For more information about Peninsula and the services available, visit PeninsulaBehavioralHealth.org or call (865) 970-9800.
Support After a Loss From Suicide
When a loved one commits suicide there are often questions that linger. Those left behind may ask, “Why?” and “What could I have done differently?”
In many cases, the survivor’s questions have no answers, leading to a unique kind of grief. Peninsula offers a free support group to help survivors work through the pain.
ComPASS is an acronym for Communicating the Pain as Suicide Survivors. The group meets the second Monday of every month.
“The emotions involved vary from anger to sadness and in some cases those unanswerable questions just won’t go away,” says Mark Potts, director of clinical services at Peninsula. “The ComPASS group is an environment where no one is telling them they have to move on.”
Potts says one of the common problems suicide survivors share is a feeling that no one truly understands the grief. ComPASS gives members a place where there is nothing to be ashamed of and each member is allowed to heal at his or her own pace.
“People who try to suppress the feelings and ignore them inevitably experience a rebound and the feelings come back when they least expect it,” Potts says. “It’s not uncommon for people a year – or years – after the event to have moments where it feels like it’s fresh.”
Some who attend ComPASS get the support they need in one session. Some stay longer.
Potts believes there’s something universal about human beings where the best part of each individual exists to serve others.
“Some individuals who have experienced loss this way find that the grieving process can’t really be completed so they stay for extended periods of time,” Potts says. “They get a certain uplift of themselves when they’re able to give to another person who is still
There is no grief that compares to the grief of losing someone to suicide. Potts says it’s important to be non- judgmental toward people who are working their way through that grief. “What you should not say is, ‘get over it,’ because that won’t work,” Potts says. “It takes time. I think that would be the most important message that I would give to anybody, either a survivor experiencing it or someone supporting a survivor.”
Potts say Peninsula’s overarching message to those who have been left behind after a suicide is simply that help is available.
“We’re here. We understand,” Potts says. “We find that sharing the burden lessens the burden.”