By Nathan Miller

The idea that suicidal thoughts are reserved for only a particular demographic is totally incorrect.

Like other mental health conditions, anyone can experience or be affected by thoughts of suicide regardless of age, gender or background, according to Nathan Miller of Cumberland Mental Health Services, an agency of Volunteer Behavioral Health Care.

Each year, September is recognized nationwide as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in an effort to make the general public more knowledgeable about issues concerning suicide from knowing the warning signs to being able to provide help to a friend or family member in need.

Suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. While suicidal thoughts are common, they should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues, Miller said.

In Tennessee suicide routinely claims more than 1,000 lives annually, while nationally more than 41,000 die by suicide each year.

Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in Tennessee based on 2016 data, and is the second-leading cause of death for an age group spanning from 10 to 24. Nationally, suicide rates among youth (ages 15-24) have increased more than 200 percent in the last fifty years.

According to Miller, the suicide rate is higher for the elderly (ages 85+) than for any other age group.

What’s disturbing, Miller notes, is that suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems.

Most suicidal people give definite warning signals of their suicidal intentions, but others are often unaware of the significance of these warnings or unsure what to do about them.

Among several warning signs of a person possibly contemplating suicide are: the fact that they are talking about suicide, death and expressing no reason to live; a preoccupation with death and dying; withdrawal from friends and/or social activities; the experience of a recent loss (especially a relationship) or the threat of a significant loss; the experience or fear of humiliation or failure; drastic changes in behavior; loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.; history of suicide attempts, as well as violence and/or hostility; unnecessary risks; reckless and/or impulsive behavior; loss of interest in personal appearance; increased use of alcohol and/or drugs; general hopelessness; and unwillingness to connect with potential helpers.

If you recognize any of these warning signs in a friend, co-worker, relative or someone else with whom you share a relationship, Miller said you should urge them to seek professional help or seek professional help for them yourself.

You may call the Volunteer Behavioral Health 24-Hour Crisis Call Line 1-800-704-2651 or for more information about suicide call the Volunteer intake number at 1-877-567-6051 or visit vbhcs.org.