Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Expert Addresses Suicide Issues
Kita Curry, president/CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, spoke about suicide at the Optimist Club meeting Tuesday morning.
“[Suicide] is a public health crisis,” Curry said, noting that more than 47,000 people took their lives in 2017.
Many people have risk factors for suicide, she said, but for “people who are less resilient there’s usually a trigger that pushes them over the edge.”
Curry posed the question, “How do you know if someone is thinking about suicide?”
There is usually a clue. For example, some people continually talk about it, saying something like “I’m a burden to my family.” Or they may start giving things away. Curry cited how in the movie “A Star Is Born,” Jackson Maine (played by Bradley Cooper) replies “Take it” when someone mentioned his vinyl collection.
She said that even if people are worried that someone in the family is depressed or down or may be thinking about suicide, “We don’t talk about it, because we’re worried it might put ideas in their head.” But, she said, “Asking doesn’t put ideas in anyone’s head. It shows that you care.”
Curry revealed that when she was a teenager, she tried to commit suicide. “I kept the fact that I was depressed to myself.” Far too often, she said, “we don’t know what people are feeling.”
What could have made a difference in her case? Not keeping it silent. If we are concerned about a family member or a friend, “show that you care. Listen. Acknowledge that person is in pain,” Curry said.
Then talk to the person and find out if the person has made a plan—and not only get that person help, but see if you can remove the pills, the gun, whatever the plan involves until the person can be helped.
“Usually people have resources but are so depressed they don’t realize it,” Curry said.
According to the Didi Hirsch website, suicide warning signs include 1) Talking about feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden, feeling trapped or unbearable pain; 2) Threatening or planning suicide; 3) Giving away possessions; 4) Making out wills; 5) Despairing texts or posts; 6) Increased use of alcohol or drugs; 7) Feelings of failure or shame; 8) Sleeping too much or too little; 9) Avoiding family and friends; 10) Loss of interest in favorite activities; 11) Visiting or calling people to say goodbye; and 12) Risky behaviors.
People who are more likely to attempt suicide include those where there is a family history of suicide or exposure to another person’s suicide. A recent loss of a job or housing, or a breakup in a relationship or a sudden health issue. And there are those who have suffered prolonged stress from harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment, who see suicide as the only option.
Curry mentioned that the suicide health hotline number had become famous because of Logic’s song/video “1-800-273-8255” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid, which has been called a deeply human suicide-prevention anthem. It was performed at the 2018 Grammy Awards, where it had been nominated for song of the year and best music video. (It can be seen on YouTube.)
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
In 2017, about 47,173 Americans died by suicide. On average there are 129 suicides every day. The highest rate was in middle-age white men, with those males accounting for 78 percent of deaths in 2017.
Adult females reportedly made suicide attempts 1.4 times as often as males, but their method of choice was not as successful as males, who often chose guns.
Regarding youth, 7.4 percent of youth in high school reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months. Female students attempted almost twice as often as male students (9.3% vs. 5.1%). Black students reported the highest rate of attempt (9.8%) with white students at 6.1 percent. Approximately 2.4 percent of all students reported making a suicide attempt that required treatment by a doctor or nurse.
Everychild Foundation Donates $1 Million
In 2018, the Pacific Palisades-based Everychild Foundation donated $1 million to the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services program, which includes crisis intervention and a “Survivors After Suicide” program.
The Everychild Foundation, founded by Jacqueline Caster in 1999, relies on members’ dues to fund grants. More than 200 women each donate $5,000 annually to fund a single grant to fund or expand a project that eases the suffering of local children.
The donation to Didi Hirsch was the 19th annual grant awarded by the foundation, which has given more than $17 million to help Los Angeles area children and their families in need since 2000.
The first Everychild grant was to Queens Care, providing money to purchase and equip the first mobile dental clinic to serve 30 low-income elementary schools in the Los Angeles School District.
The 2018 Didi Hirsch grant will cover final capital expenses to outfit a Century City building purchased in 2017 to house its suicide prevention program, which had outgrown its existing facility.
The expenses covered by the grant include an upgraded crisis call/chat data system, software for data analysis, video conferencing equipment, a generator to run the crisis line during disasters and outages, 28 sound-proofed crisis line cubicles, and related furnishings.
“The women of Everychild are so grateful for this important opportunity to bring more resources and attention to suicide prevention,” said Everychild founder and president Caster in a press release.
“Until recently, the topic of suicide was only discussed in hushed tones and out of the public eye, as it was considered a shameful act,” Caster said. “Today, views have changed, and it is widely known that when a young person has suicidal thoughts, they are mostly a result of untreated mental health issues. If this new center, with an increased capacity to help and to publicize the program, can save even just one young person from taking his/her own life, this new grant will have been a tremendous success.”
Dr. Kita S. Curry, CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, said the agency could not meet the increasing need for its services without a larger home and state-of-the-art technology and equipment.
“With its generous support, the Everychild Foundation has made a commitment to one of the most stigmatized and neglected health risks facing youth and young adults’ suicide,” Curry said. “The suicide rate doubled among 10- to 14-year-olds in the last decade, and it is the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.
“Thanks to the Everychild Foundation, in our new Suicide Prevention Center, we will have the room and tools needed to expand services for this vulnerable group.”