Suicide rates started going up around 2008, during the 2008 recession, and have been steadily growing more so since 2015, leading into the COVID-19 pandemic.
A graph of suicide rates on the National Institute of Mental Health website shows a steady incline, with no huge jump.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about twice as many people nationally had suicidal thoughts during the COVID-10 pandemic than in 2018.
Locally, however, social worker Anne Gibbs she that she had not specifically noticed an increase in suicidal thoughts.
According to Gibbs, there is no way to really predict suicide, no way to say, “I know they are going to commit,” rather a concern for a person showing suicide signs. Knowing how to properly handle a situation with someone who is suicidal can save a life.
“The biggest factor for preventing suicides is simply asking,” Gibbs said.
According to Gibbs, normalizing talking about suicide and showing people that they are supported and can be connected with someone who can help can help decrease the risks. Listening to people who are suicidal and not being dismissive is very important in the fight against suicide.
According to Gibbs, when helping someone who is suicidal, making sure they can see that there is still hope is key. Becoming that person they can trust can be accomplished in very easy ways. If someone says they are contemplating suicide, never be dismissive or act like it does not matter. Do not say, “You do not mean it.”
The most important thing to never do though is to promise to keep it a secret. Instead, help the person find someone they feel comfortable talking to who can help in the situation.
“Any of the counselors or social workers are good to talk to,” Gibbs said. “Although any adult in the building cares about students and can help them get help.”
Sometimes it is hard to see hope, and suicidal people need other people to show them sometimes that there is light at the end of the tunnel. “It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” Gibbs said.
There has always been a certain stigma around talking about mental health. Gibbs has noticed people are more open to talking about physical illnesses than mental illnesses.
“Trying to make sure that mental health is talked about and acknowledged in the same way as physical illness will help show that it is normal and natural to experience feelings of sadness,” Gibbs said. The more it is talked about, the less stigmatized it will become.
Introducing conversations about feelings and how to deal with them can start as young as three years old, and then starting to expand that conversation into deeper topics as they get older can help younger children understand how to deal with their emotions as they grow.
“We need to start the conversation about emotions and feelings at a young age,” Gibbs said. This will help as they grow older to be able to communicate their feelings to others better.
Suicide not only affects the person who did it, but also the community around them.
“Suicide death can have a bad impact on the community,” Gibbs said.
If someone is struggling because someone close has committed, or attempted to commit suicide, the National Alliance of Mental Health provides support groups, along with Provident counseling and Chads Coalition, both located in the Saint Louis area. Having support in a time of need can help cope with those feelings.
“Grief is always hard,” Gibbs said. Having someone close commit suicide can add feelings of guilt and other intense emotions that can last for a long time.
If believed someone around is at immediate risk of committing, call 911.
If thinking of suicide, or have suicidal thoughts, call the numbers above or text BHEARD to 31658 to get in touch with someone who can help.
Also, getting connected to a local counselor or social worker to help work through the tough thoughts can be beneficial.