World Health Organization Recognizes Global Suicide Epidemic

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Today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day.  Ahead of this annual recognition of how many lives have been lost to suicide, the World Health Organization (WHO) published its first report on suicide prevention, recognizing it as a worldwide problem.  The WHO report notes the statistic that every 40 seconds, a person living somewhere in the world dies by suicide.  The organization further lays out prevention strategies that seek to involve members of the public, employers, as well as those working in educational and social services fields.

Here in Oklahoma, we are becoming increasingly aware of suicide and how to prevent it as our state ranks 12th in the nation for deaths by suicide.  Last week, as part of our ongoing Professional Seminar Series at Brookhaven Hospital, Savannah Kalman presented, “Suicide Prevention in a Hospital Setting.”  Kalman works for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as the Suicide Prevention Program Manager.  She delivered a presentation that was filled with disturbing statistics, but also filled with hope and tools that we can all use to prevent any further loss of life to suicide.  Kalman also announced our state’s adoption of the Zero Suicide Initiative stating, “there is no number, not one life lost, that would be acceptable to us.”

“Suicide is our most preventable form of death.”  I find this quote by former Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, inspirational, because, unlike some of our other problems, we can all do something to prevent deaths by suicide.  It begins with educating ourselves that we will not give a person the idea by asking if they are thinking of killing themselves.  As Kalman pointed out to our attendees last week, you do not have to be a mental health professional to ask the question just as you do not have to be a doctor or nurse to perform CPR.  “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” is a scary question to ask, but if the person’s answer is “yes” you are not alone.  There is help available here at Brookhaven Hospital (888.298.HOPE) as well as at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.TALK).  Dialing 911 or going to the nearest emergency room are also options in a crisis situation.  We need to remember that someone who has a plan to die by suicide has a life that hangs in the balance just as someone who is experiencing cardiac arrest.

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