Suicide affects communities.
According to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-34 in Virginia.
“Nothing prepares you for the shock,” said Kate Cardone, deputy executive director for I Need a Lighthouse, a nonprofit in Virginia Beach whose mission is to reduce loss and suffering from teen and young adult depression, suicide, and suicidal behavior. “I lost my younger sister to suicide when she was [only] 20 years old. When you lose someone to suicide, it not only impacts family and friends, but also the broader community.”
“The good news is, if we know the signs and symptoms, we know what to look for, how to see it,” Cardone said.
According to the AFSP, there is no single cause for suicide, but adds it is often associated with depression. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair.
“When we talk about prevention, we like to focus on mental health being just as important as physical health,” Cardone said. “We talk about things like: nutrition, getting enough sleep, exercise, and being connected. Conversely mental health declines without these things.”
Know the warning signs
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides the following list of warning signs as something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal.
If a person talks about:
● Killing themselves
● Feeling hopeless
● Having no reason to live
● Being a burden to others
● Feeling trapped
● Unbearable pain
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
● Increased use of alcohol or drugs
● Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
● Withdrawing from activities
● Isolating from family and friends
● Sleeping too much or too little
● Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
● Giving away prized possessions
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
● Loss of interest
● Relief/Sudden Improvement
Talk about it
“Prevention starts before. It’s about having those important conversations,” Cardone said.
I Need a Lighthouse’s primary programming targets students entering high school, as times of transition are vulnerable for teenagers and young adults embarking on new chapters.
“With students, we teach them to empower themselves,” Cardone said. “We teach them how to start a hard conversation with a peer, a parent; how to recognize symptoms, and how to get an adult involved to give additional support. Or if they’ve lost someone to suicide, it’s a complicated type of grief, there are a lot of questions and guilt. We remind them it’s not their fault. By talking about suicide openly, it helps to reduce the stigma. It’s an opportunity to have thoughtful conversations, and build understanding. We want folks to feel comfortable, to step forward and reach out for help.”
One of the CDC’s suicide prevention strategies is to promote “connectedness” through peer programs or community engagement activities.
I Need a Lighthouse offers its upcoming community event, the “Beacon of Hope” 5K Walk/Run on May 19 on the Oceanfront.
Cardone described the race as, “Really upbeat, a positive event that provides hope. It’s a way to build community and to educate.”
For more information on I Need a Lighthouse and their programming in the Hampton Roads community, click here.
For additional information on suicide or suicide prevention, click here.