By KATIE ROSS
CHEROKEE INDIAN HOSPITAL
Since 2009, Cherokee Indian Hospital has partnered with A Na Le Ni Sgi and other community health providers to reduce the risk of suicide in Cherokee. Strategies include training doctors to recognize and treat depression; increasing the use of depression screenings in medical care; collecting old medicines to reduce access to means of suicide; educating clergy, counselors, first responders, school staff, and other community members; and increasing access to psychotherapy.
CIHA is now entering a part of the project focused on increasing awareness in the community. Look for meetings and public forums where you can learn and share your perspectives on this issue. Reported suicides and suicide attempts have decreased in Cherokee since 2009, but since people are ashamed and don’t always report suicide attempts, there are many people still at risk. By being aware of warning signs, you can help keep suffering people from harming themselves and keep your family and friends safe.
People who are thinking about hurting themselves may try to reach out to you. Be alert for warning signs. For example:
- Talking about suicide or death
- Direct verbal clues, like “I wish I were dead” or “Soon I’ll be gone”
- Indirect verbal clues, like “I don’t know if I can take it anymore” or “No one would care if I were dead” or “What’s the point of life, anyway?”
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Stockpiling medications or buying a gun
- Giving away money or treasured possessions or planning a trip
- A sudden, unexplained improvement in mood after being depressed for a while
If someone you know shows these or other signs of imminent self-harm or suicide, it can be difficult to respond. But research shows that once a person has been asked if they are considering suicide, they feel relief and are less likely to go through with it. Starting a difficult conversation is worth saving a life.
Depending on the person and your relationship with him/her, you may start the conversation indirectly (“Have you been unhappy lately?”) or more directly (“You seem very upset lately, and I’m wondering if you’ve been thinking about hurting yourself.”) Once you begin talking, listen with your full attention and show care and concern. Do not interrupt, argue, or judge, and do not promise to keep any secrets. Try to persuade the person to get help. You may offer to go with him/her to see a counselor or doctor. You may need to make a phone call or go with your friend to get help. Even someone who refuses help may be involuntarily given treatment. If the person seems to pose an immediate threat to him/herself or has a history of suicide attempts or psychiatric disorders, take immediate action and do not leave him/her alone.
- Call the Mobile Crisis team any time of day or night: 1-888-315-2880
- To talk to a counselor, call A Na Le Ni Sgi at 554-6550 or drop-in M-F from 1-4 pm
- Call a national hotline to talk to a trained counselor: 1-800-273-TALK
- For emergencies, call 911 or take the person to an emergency room, or call Cherokee Police 554-6600