Fall River Health Services offers must-know information on suicide prevention
HOT SPRINGS, S.D. – September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and South Dakota remains a state with one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, suicide was the tenth most common cause of death for South Dakotans in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available. For South Dakotans aged 10-19, it was the number one cause of death.
Dr. Dominick Trombetta, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry at Fall River Health Services, answered some questions to explain what you can do to help prevent suicide.
What are some of the signs or warnings to watch for?
“I always talk about what we call suicidal ideation as having thoughts of suicide in some form on a spectrum,” Trombetta said. “On one end you have what we call passive suicidal ideation or passive thoughts. These are early warnings that may or may not escalate or become more relevant, and they take the form of statements like ‘what would it be like if I weren’t around?’ or ‘I feel like a burden’ or ‘It may be easier if I just disappear.’ Those are one end of what I call passive thoughts.”
“Then the other end is more active thoughts, which is what people usually think of in terms of suicide. That would be where maybe you have a plan in mind or maybe don’t have a plan but do intend on pursuing some course of action that may lead to dying by suicide,” Trombetta said.
“When it comes to passive thoughts there are still ways to check in with your friend or with your kid in terms of making sure that if they do feel that way, if they are having those thoughts and they are consistent, or they’re escalating over time, to direct them to some help rather than waiting until they actively want to die,” Trombetta said.
Some other common behavioral warning signs include:
- withdrawing or isolating
- not participating in sports or hanging out with friends
- seeming more uptight, on edge, restless, or tense frequently
- substance abuse, or increased use of substances
- wanting to sleep much more than usual
What are some common misconceptions about suicide?
The most common misconception, according to Trombetta, is a fear that confrontation will make things worse.
“A lot of people think that by asking someone about [their suicidal thoughts] in more detail or broaching the conversation that that somehow leads to more suicidal thoughts or tendencies. The truth is that it really does not. It is not in any way bad and in fact encouraged to explore it and to go into detail,” Trombetta said. “When I was working on inpatient units in the past, I would always directly ask about wanting to die by suicide, because asking about hurting oneself can be construed in either a cutting way or in one of those passive suicidal ideation ways I mentioned earlier,”
But, he added: “that could be left up to a professional and doesn’t have to be something that a layperson has on their hands.”
If you’re a parent and concerned about your child or their friend, what should you do?
“First, ask. Try to have a direct conversation with them. If it’s your child and you want to gather a little bit more information before you go on for that full commitment of a conversation with them, you could always ask their teachers.” Trombetta said. “Maybe they wouldn’t hear directly about suicidal talk, but they may catch signs of those things that go with it, such as substance abuse, withdrawing in class, seeming less interested, or maybe not showing up to some classes. Those might be early warning signs and you would try and have a direct conversation.”
“It may be somethings that’s just crossed their mind, but if in time it’s consistent in nature, that’s when you can look for setting them up with counseling both outside the school and in school.”
Aside from counseling, Trombetta recommends making sure that all teenagers know the suicide hotline number, which is now 988 nationwide. Additionally, he says that in the case you think someone may harm themselves soon, they should be evaluated immediately, whether that be at the emergency room, urgent care, or a medical professional.
“Often times people will be afraid that going to the E.R. always means that you end up in an inpatient unit, which is not the case,” Trombetta said.
Fall River Health Services offers multiple providers that are available to see urgent cases, as well as, assist in medication management. Fall River Health Services also have a licensed clinical social worker who could provide long term counseling to help with symptoms of mental illness and decrease the overall risk factor.