Our hearts sank as we heard back-to-back stories last week of two famous people taking their own lives. At the very same time came a troubling new report from the CDC showing suicide rates on the rise across the country. While our local rate has stabilized, on average, we still see a San Diegan die by suicide each day.
The celebrity deaths are evidence that all the success in the world won’t make someone immune to depression. It strikes people regardless of their race, ethnicity or economic status.
And it can clearly reach our fellow County employees and their loved ones. I want to offer a reminder of a few ways you can get help for yourself or take care of those around you.
First, our Employee Assistance Program can provide counseling for you or members of your household. It’s free and strictly confidential. You can visit the website or call 888-777-6665 (Sheriff’s Dept. sworn staff have their own EAP at 800-222-9691). Please don’t hesitate to take advantage of this service.
For the public, but certainly available to employees as well, the County sponsors the Access and Crisis Line where trained counselors offer advice on handling a mental health crisis. The number is (888) 724-7240.
I also want to encourage everyone to be alert to risk factors among your co-workers, family or friends. Most people who take their own lives show some kind of warning signs. These can include:
Talk of hurting or killing oneself
Hopelessness or helplessness
Divorce, separation, stress on family
Loss of health (real or imaginary)
Loss of job, home, personal security
Increased alcohol or drug use
Isolation from family and friends
Daring or risk-taking behavior
Looking beyond that, there’s a suicide prevention technique known as QPR: Question, Persuade and Refer. It’s available through the Suicide Prevention Council. Additionally, Mental Health America of San Diego County has a training called Mental Health First Aid that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses.
News like we’ve had recently naturally leaves us saddened and confused. But experts stress that by seeking help and watching out for each other, suicide can be prevented. Let’s focus on what we can do and the steps we can take to safeguard our own and others’ well-being.