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September is National Suicide Awareness Month Signs to Watch for in Our Patients

September is National Suicide Awareness Month Signs to Watch for in Our Patients

September is national suicide awareness in the US.  From everything I’ve been hearing and reading, suicide have skyrocketed this year. I’m not going to quote any specific statistics because I’m not sure if the agencies that handle mental health have a super clear idea of what those numbers are yet.  I think it’s safe to say, with the horror show of 2020 how could our mental health as a general population not be affected?

 According to mental health.gov in a regular, non pandemic year 112 Americans die everyday from suicide.  In the UK it averages about 11 death for every 100,000 people.

 As chiropractors, I think we can be on the front lines watching our patients and asking questions to help determine if they are at risk or not.

 So quick story…I had a house fire back in November of 2019.  It’s one of those events that for some people (like me) requires some therapy in order to get the brain back to normal.  My shrink (he likes that term) had a zoom session back in the end of March, beginning of April.  My concern was the massive amount of stress and uncertainty that was going on in our lives at the time. From businesses to money to kids to my elderly grandmother in a long term memory care facility, the stressors seemed endless at the time.  Just like every other citizen of planet Earth. My shrink said something pretty profound to me that session.  He said no matter where a person is on the mental health scale, their percentage points for mental health dropped by at least a couple.  He said, it doesn’t matter if the person is normally well-adjusted, the stress and unknown of a global pandemic is sending everyone into a tail spin.

 With that being said, I’ve made an extra effort to ask my patients how they are doing.  Like for real guys, how’s the mental health?  Especially if it is someone I haven’t seen since the lockdown.  That is the benefit of our professions, our patients come see us more and hopefully we can start to see some warning signs. 

 Obviously if a patient comes in talking about suicidal ideations, anything like that should be taken as an immediate concern and we need to get them help ASAP.  There are no idle suicide threats in our offices.

 How about these symptoms?

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

 Unbearable pain, feeling trapped, changes in sleep patterns, feeling withdrawn and isolated…some of these sound like chronic pain to me!

 I think especially during these times, even as restrictions loosen and society starts to return to whatever it returns too. There is going to be a fallout, the repercussions and stress from a global pandemic are not going to magically disappear, especially in the mental health realm. As chiropractors if we stay engaged and pay attention to our patients, we can find small little signs that could be pointing to a much larger issue.

 As a word of caution, we can watch, listen, refer and encourage our patients to take care of issues and their mental health. Just like with any profession, it is not fool proof. Back in January, I had a man in his mid forties commit suicide and it was a surprise to even his family living in the same household. Just do your best.

Kassandra Schultz DC