In this critically important episode, we confront one of society's most pressing and often misunderstood issues: suicide. With Matt Gesicki from NAMI, we aim to shed light on the factors that lead individuals to such depths of despair and the preventative measures that can make a difference.
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Before we dive into today's episode, we want to offer a word of caution. Today's topic revolves around the sensitive and deeply personal subject of suicide. We understand that this is not an easy topic for many and we want to be sure that all of our listeners are mentally and emotionally prepared to engage with it. For those who decide to continue listening, we hope this conversation is insightful, compassionate and contributes positively to the broader understanding of mental health and well-being. Thanks for listening to CC Airwaves. Hello everyone and welcome back to CC Airwaves. My name is Peej Matillo and I'm here with my co-host, joel Hansel.Speaker 2:
How are you doing Peej?Speaker 1:
Doing good. I am ready for today's episode and we actually have a guest joining us. We have Matt Gasecchi from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. How are you doing today?Speaker 3:
I'm doing great. Thank you for having me.Speaker 1:
No problem, we're excited to have you. We want to shed a light on this delicate topic and we thought that your organization would be the best way to do this.Speaker 3:
Absolutely, you're to help.Speaker 1:
So we will go right into the questions. So, Matt, what is suicide?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so just at a very basic level, suicide is the taking of one's own life, a lethal attempt at taking one's own life. A suicide attempt would be defined as a person trying to take their own life but being unsuccessful.Speaker 2:
Matt, who is at risk for suicide.Speaker 3:
Yeah, so there are specific populations that are more at risk for suicide than others, and I have some statistics here that can highlight that a little bit more. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 14, and it is the third leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24. Suicide is also the 12th leading cause of death overall in the United States, and it's reported that 45% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition. Now, to clarify that a little bit more it's believed that around 90, 90, 90% of people who die by suicide may have experienced some symptoms of a mental health condition. According to family, friends, medical professionals, these interviews that are conducted after a suicide are known as psychological autopsy. 79% of people who die by suicide are male and just to clarify that a little bit more, although women are more likely to attempt suicide in general, men are more likely to attempt suicide using more aggressive means, which are more likely to result in a successful or I should not say successful, but in a completion of suicide. So, for example, the use of firearm as opposed to pills or medication. So those are some of the populations that we see having the most associated risk factors for suicide.Speaker 1:
And what are the warning signs of suicide?Speaker 3:
Yeah. So that's a really important question because these are things that folks in the community can recognize on their own as potential, as potential warning signs. These include things like increased alcohol or drug use, aggressive behavior, withdrawal from friends, family and community, more social isolation. You may see dramatic mood swings. You may see impulsive or reckless behavior. There may be collecting or saving kind of hoarding away pills or buying a firearm, giving away possessions, tying up loose ends like organizing personal papers or paying off debts, saying goodbye to friends and family, kind of facilitating what feels like closure. Those can all be examples of signs that someone is seriously considering suicide.Speaker 2:
Does anyone asking about suicide put the idea in their head?Speaker 3:
Yeah. So that's a really good question because it's a common myth or misconception about suicide. It does not plant the idea. It's not. A—asking about suicide is not inherently suggestible to the person. That's a myth. And in fact, asking someone a question like are you thinking about suicide? What is actually opening the door for a more open conversation with the person about what they're really experiencing? You're kind of giving them permission to share what may feel otherwise shameful or embarrassing or frightening that they are in fact considering taking their own life. So that's—I'm glad that question was asked.Speaker 1:
And do people threaten suicide to get attention?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so that's another really good question, because it is a common myth or misconception. So I would say that the idea that threatening suicide is a form of emotional manipulation is rooted in very stigmatized understandings about—and negative perception about mental illness in general. And, yeah, the idea that someone would use their symptoms of major depression, for example, as a form of emotionally manipulating the people around them is unlikely and, furthermore, any suicidal ideation or behavior should be taken seriously, because the worst outcome that you could have of not taking someone's suicidal ideation or behavior seriously and thinking it's just a form of manipulation would be the inevitable result of that person ending up taking their life.Speaker 2:
Could you discuss what treatment options or therapies are available to someone with those type of thoughts?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so any licensed mental health professional, like a therapist, a counselor, a social worker, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, a physician any of those individuals are qualified to conduct an assessment on a person's degree of suicidal ideation, which can kind of allow them to conclude what next step should be in like formulating a safety plan if the person is seriously considering suicide. I would say also that there are certain mental illnesses that are more commonly associated with suicidal ideation, and that includes something like major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, and the most effective evidence-based treatment methods for those conditions are CBT, which is cognitive behavioral therapy, and DBT, which is dialectical behavioral therapy, and these are very common modalities in mental health, and the easiest way to find a provider that is competent in something like CBT or DBT is to search an online directory such as the one that is available through the website Psychology Today. Most therapists practicing throughout the nation have profiles on Psychology Today, and users can search for providers by zip code and by keywords, and by gender or race or religion, if there's any preferences around that, as well as specific specializations or therapeutic modalities that therapists practice, such as CBT or DBT.Speaker 1:
So, matt, we're obviously in an age where social media is very prevalent, and especially with those age groups that you were talking about earlier that were more at risk for suicide. So what should someone do if they see a suicidal message on social media?Speaker 3:
Yeah, I think there's a couple steps that you can take. I think that if it's a person that you know, you can reach out to them privately through a direct message, whether it's something like Facebook or Instagram or Reddit and if you're not able to reach them personally and privately, it's in your, it's definitely within your range of options to contact local authorities to report that you're concerned about their well-being and, if nothing else, most social media platforms, if not all, now have reporting features that will allow you to report content as indicating suicidal ideation or thoughts of self harm, of other self harm, and this is kind of at the. This is a kind of a minimal option, but that is something that can now be reported, and a follow-up message is sent to the account of the person that is posting that Self-harm related content with information about calling, for example, 988, which is the new three digit nationwide suicide prevention lifeline that is now in place across the country and which routes a caller to their county's local mobile crisis hotline response team.Speaker 2:
Could you talk a little bit about the about mobile crisis and frontline services that are available?Speaker 3:
Yes, so at least in the state of Ohio, every county is served by a mobile crisis agency. If you're located here in Cuyahoga County, our mobile crisis team is provided by the organization frontline service, and mobile crisis is a 24-7 mental health crisis response division. So anyone can call at any time, any hour, any day and Speak with a hotline representative who can listen, provide affirmation and validation and Deescalation on the phone as much as possible, perhaps resolve what's being experienced on the phone with the caller. If not a team Usually they are in pairs a team of crisis counselors or crisis clinicians. Clinicians can be Dispatched to the caller's location, at which time the issue could be resolved on site. However, if that is not possible, they can facilitate transfer to a hospital or crisis stabilization unit for treatment If they are at, if they are seriously ill and at imminent risk of harm to self or others. The one qualifying statement I will make about 988 and about mobile crisis is that it's for Crisis and not for emergency. So what do I mean by the difference there? Well, the emergency is a truly lethal situation. Let's say a person has had an overdose or Taken some lethal, potentially lethal, steps to ending their life. In that case, that is a call to 911 for an immediate dispatch within two minutes or so. Mobile crisis 988. A more appropriate context for a call to 988 would be something like a Person's feeling unsafe. They're starting to become elevated, maybe they're in a safe place with someone else, but they're worried about their well-being. But they could potentially wait. You know they won't receive an immediate dispatch necessarily Because of the inundation of calls, the volume of calls and the availability of clinicians to arrive, but they they're in a, they're in a safer place. They may be experiencing a mental health crisis, but it's not to the urgency of a mental health emergency. And I share that information just to provide accurate context for when to call 988 and when to call 911.Speaker 1:
That's an important distinction, though, especially for our listeners, who may need those numbers in the future.Speaker 3:
Yeah, absolutely.Speaker 1:
So, matt, how can someone find help if they are experiencing these suicidal thoughts?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so I had mentioned before that you know a great way to find a therapist is to use the online directory of the website psychology today, and that is psychology todaycom. As I said, you can search using a variety of filters to find someone that's in your area, takes your insurance, specializes in the issues that you're experiencing or in the treatment modality that you're interested in. And you can also find other treatment providers through the treatment locator tool that is provided by the database of SAMHSA, which is S-A-M-H-S-A, which is a federal organization. It is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and, similar to the directory on psychology today. You can find agencies, residential treatment options, group homes, things like that for family members, for example, who need that level of care. You can search using your zip code and insurance taken and other filters to find agencies in addition to therapists that are in your area. And I would also like to make a plug at this time for the NAMI Greater Cleveland Helpline. If you're here in Cuyahoga County, you can always call our number. It's not a hotline, it's not for emergencies, but you can call us between 9 and 5, monday through Friday at 216-875-7776. And we provide information and referral so we can send follow-up messages in calls and in emails with relevant information about resources and services in the community that can help for one's mental health and well-being, as well as other resources too.Speaker 1:
Those are great resources and I will be sure to link them below for our listeners. Matt, I was just curious how did you start getting involved with NAMI?Speaker 3:
Yeah, so I have been with NAMI for about two and a half years and I have also been working. Since about the time I started working at NAMI I've been working on my master's degree in clinical mental health counseling at Cleveland State University. Prior to working in mental health, I worked in hospice, so I have some background. I know that bereavement services and grief services are provided by the Catholic Cemetery Association, so I have some familiarity with some of the issues and dynamics surrounding end-of-life and bereavement services and still have an interest in that as a future counselor. But I also have personal experience with mental health. There is a history of suicide attempts in my family. There is a history of mental illness in my family. I also am a person living with symptoms of depression and anxiety, have some childhood trauma that I'm recovering from and as an adult I'm doing that deep work in therapy with my counselor. And one of the good things about working at an institution like NAMI is that we are a grassroots movement that prioritizes the personal lived experience of mental health consumers, families, caregivers and professionals to end the stigma and perpetuate the message that recovery and resilience are in fact possible, and also just to educate the broader public about what it's like to live with a mental illness and how we should treat and communicate and better help people in our local communities who live with mental illness. And that's one of my favorite parts of my job is providing education to the greater public about mental illness, how to recognize signs and symptoms of mental disorders, how to recognize signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation, and to make a more welcoming and inclusive community for folks living with mental illness.Speaker 1:
That's wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your background.Speaker 3:
So thank you so much again for joining us, matt. We really appreciate you coming on and talking about this topic. I will link all of those resources in the description below for our listeners, and that is all we have for today, thank you.