Encompass Health Services gave a presentation at El Capitan Highschool on Tuesday, November 21, 2017, about an issue that is prevalent throughout our nation and a taboo subject for discussion. Dr. Peggy Taylor of Encompass Health Services put the problem into perspective with this statistic, “In 2015, 44,193 people died by suicide nationwide. Consider this relative to the University of Utah Stadium which holds just over 43,000. The amount of suicides could fill the stadium and the playing field.”
This is not the only startling statistic she had to offer. Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in 2015 in the United States. The clear majority of suicide deaths were males. And perhaps the most startling of all the statistics she offered were the age groups that were most likely to die by suicide. “Of the 44,000 plus suicides in 2015, 13% were five to fourteen-year old’s, 37% were fifteen to twenty-four-year old’s, and 26% were middle aged.” That means that school aged kids are on the frontline of this issue. “Homicide is the third leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24. Suicide is the second,” she said.
The Encompass Health Services team broke their presentation into three parts, offering statistics, discussion of myths and facts, and a robust discussion about the warning signs and interventions for suicide. Common myths surrounding suicide are that only white males die by suicide, when, in fact, “some demographic factors contribute to higher risk for suicide, but it is important to remember that suicide does not discriminate.” Another myth about suicide is that they happen without warning. Most people who die by suicide have communicated their intent or distress to someone beforehand. According to their presentation, “50-70% of people will give someone close to them a warning sign.” Those warning signs include such things as moodiness, withdrawal, personality changes, recent major trauma, deep sadness, break ups, and sudden calm, among other signs.
One point that they stressed above all others was the need to talk about it. The cultural taboo surrounding the subject is often one of the things that exacerbates the feelings that can lead to suicide. Dr. Taylor conveyed that her own clinical experience, and statistics, have shown that blunt and direct discussion brings the underlying issues out into the open and provide a means for intervention. Some of the things that individuals can do if they see the signs of suicide are very simple; ask questions, talk about getting help, show you care, and give them hope. She spoke of suicide survivors who nearly unanimously express gratitude that they were unsuccessful in their suicide attempts. A handful of suicide survivors who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, according to Dr. Taylor, spoke of their immediate regret after jumping.
The subject of bullying was brought forward as well. In today’s technologically advanced environment, bullying can not only take place at a greater frequency, but can follow kids from the school all the way to their bedrooms. It can be perpetuated without the knowledge of adults, sometimes with tragic consequences. Again, they stressed the need for discussion and action on the part of fellow students to stand up for each other and engage in positive behaviors toward one another.
Encompass Health Services has recently opened an office in Colorado City and has been a major presence in the local schools and the community at large. They will be doing a series of presentations at all the local schools, as well as smaller group presentations on the subject of suicide awareness. For information regarding the services they provide, you can contact them at (928)-643-7230 or online at www.encompass-az.org. The suicide crisis hotline is 928-645-8180.