Learn more about suicidal ideation

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. So, as we go into this time period, be ready to learn more about suicide starting with this information provided by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):  

Suicide Awareness

It can be frightening if someone you love talks about suicidal thoughts. It can be even more frightening if you find yourself thinking about dying or giving up on life. Not taking these kinds of thoughts seriously can have devastating outcomes, as suicide is a permanent solution to (often) temporary problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased by 30 percent since 1999. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone. Comments or thoughts about suicide — also known as suicidal ideation — can begin small like, “I wish I wasn’t here” or “Nothing matters.” But over time, they can become more explicit and dangerous.

Warning Signs

Here are a few other warning signs of suicide:

  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:

  • Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
  • Giving away possessions
  • Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

If you are unsure, a licensed mental health professional can help assess.

Risk Factors

Research has found that 46 percent of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition. Several other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:

  • A family history of suicide
  • Substance use. Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
  • Intoxication. More than 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are under the influence of alcohol at the time of death.
  • Access to firearms
  • A serious or chronic medical illness
  • Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • Prolonged stress
  • A recent tragedy or loss

Support in a Crisis

When a suicide-related crisis occurs, friends and family are often caught off-guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do. The behaviors of a person experiencing a crisis can be unpredictable, changing dramatically without warning.

There are a few ways to approach a suicide-crisis:

  • Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
  • If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
  • Express support and concern
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
  • If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace
  • Be patient

Like any other health emergency, it’s important to address a mental health crisis like suicide quickly and effectively. Unlike other health emergencies, mental health crises don’t have instructions or resources on how to help or what to expect (like the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR). That’s why NAMI created Navigating a Mental Health Crisis: A NAMI Resource Guide for Those Experiencing a Mental Health Emergency, so people experiencing mental health emergencies and their loved ones can have the answers and information they need when they need it.

If your friend or family member struggles with suicidal ideation day-to-day, let them know that they can talk with you about what they’re going through. Make sure that you adopt an open and compassionate mindset when they’re talking. Instead of “arguing” or trying to disprove any negative statements they make (“Your life isn’t that bad!”), try active listening techniques such as reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts. This can help your loved one feel heard and validated.

Let them know that mental health professionals are trained to help people understand their feelings and improve mental wellness and resiliency. Psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, can help a person with thoughts of suicide recognize ineffective patterns of thinking and behavior, validate their feelings and learn coping skills. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom, just like any other — they can be treated, and they can improve over time.

Always here for you

Thank you for reading this information from NAMI. If you want to speak to someone about mental health, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.


Mental health: How to tap into good online internet habits

Therapist Benjamin Dungan holds “Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids – and How to Break the Trance,” by Nicholas Kardaras. Sign up for his upcoming presentation on internet habits.


Online video screens are kind of like windows – as glass rectangles we look through to see the world outside. However, internet screens are not like windows overlooking calming vistas but are more like windows on a fast-moving train. The scenes can change from serene to jarring at a moment’s notice.

Furthermore, online viewers can engage in limitless information, activities and games. Sometimes the hours go by, the days go by, and the engagement becomes compulsive. This behavior is sometimes described as internet addiction.

While excessive internet use has not been recognized as a disorder by the World Health Organization or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), discussion of these conditions and use of the term Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) abounds. Many of us are faced with keeping our online habits in check.


Adding it up

So, just how much time do we spend online?

The Digital 2019 report by HootSuite and We Are Social reports consumers in the U.S. are online an average of 6 hours and 31 minutes each day.

Secondly, how much time is too much time?

The short answer is that it depends on how that time is being spent and how it relates to a person’s overall lifestyle balance. This where it gets extremely complicated because for the most part our sources for learning, work, entertainment and recreation are together in one place – on the internet.


Compulsivity and addiction

Compulsive behavior can be identified when someone is always looking forward to getting back online, as well as being online constantly. Being compulsive is not uncommon in various ways and can often be corrected with habit improvement efforts. 

With substance use disorders, addictive behaviors include a condition when a person gives up or significantly reduces social, occupational or recreational activities due of substance use. Likewise, it’s easy to see how this parallel to the word “addiction” can be made when a person’s lifestyle and responsibilities unravel due to an excessive amount of time spent on the internet.


Taking action

Setting limits is a key component to improving habits. As parents, this might involve technically limiting the capability of computers for children in the home or having the internet connection shut down at specified times. For adults, better habits simply involve a self-accountability effort.

To get a grip on level of use, it may help to:

  • Track the amount of time you are online.
  • Schedule the times of day when you are online and off.
  • Take a digital detox break now and then. Have a friend unplug with you.
  • Don’t use your smartphone when you are lying in bed.
  • Just “let go” in general. Release the urge to keep up with all email and posts instantaneously.


Join us for a webcast to learn more

Community Reach Therapist Benjamin Dungan will present “How to Develop Healthy Internet Habits,” online at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27. He will be be available to answer questions from viewers after the presentation. To sign up, please visit the Community Reach Center Facebook link or register to participate via Zoom.

Dungan will explore recent statistics, neurological impacts of internet use, physical and sleep impacts, mental health impacts and signs of problematic use. He will cover how to use internet technology in healthy ways, and he will provide sources to look to if you or a loved one needs to consider professional help. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has experience working with children and adults in a variety of therapy, hospital, community and school settings. He developed an interest in helping those with addictions such as substances, food and technology.

Remember the presentation is free. Please join us.

Always here for you

If you want to speak to someone about mental health, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.