Psychiatrist shares tips on helping people with depression, suicidal thoughts

The suicide prevention lifeline is available 24 hours a day. (Source: KAIT)
The suicide prevention lifeline is available 24 hours a day. (Source: KAIT)
Dr. Michelle Schofield provided tips about talking to people dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts. (Source: KAIT)
Dr. Michelle Schofield provided tips about talking to people dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts. (Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The news that famous chef and CNN host Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade were both discovered dead in apparent suicides this week brings the topic of mental illness to the forefront of many minds.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Arkansas.

That means, on average, one person dies by suicide every 16 hours in the state.

"When it comes to depression and especially when it comes to suicide, it doesn't know gender, it doesn't know social status, it doesn't know race," Dr. Michelle Schofield with St. Bernards Behavioral Health said.

Dr. Schofield said fame, wealth, or success are not indicators of mental health.

"So you never know how many people will be greatly impacted," Dr. Schofield said.

Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that suicide is up nearly 30% since 1999.

Unfortunately, according to the psychiatrist, there is still a stigma surrounding depression and suicidal thoughts so people tend to be dismissive of it because it's uncomfortable to talk about.

"So many will, unfortunately, ignore it and pretend like it's not happening so we don't talk about it and that can lead to that negative stigma," Dr. Schofield said. "I think it's about putting it out there and making people realize just how prevalent depression is, how it is more than okay to seek help, to ask for help, to demand help because there are resources out there available to hopefully prevent suicide."

Dr. Schofield said some of the things to look for in friends or family members are isolation, dramatic weight loss or gain, changed eating habits, or loss of sleep.

"There are some times when I talk to family members who have lost someone to suicide, they will tell me hindsight is 20/20," Dr. Schofield said. "If I look back on it I know that this person started giving me things that they normally would not give me, whether it was clothing, books, documents that they wanted me to take care of or they wanted me to hold and I didn't think anything about that. Unfortunately, that was a warning sign that many of us just dismissed. Many of us would. It's not a criticism, but it's just a fact."

It's important to reach out to that person and share resources that could help them.

"Starting the conversation in a nonjudgmental, non-confrontational manner, making the person feel as comfortable as you can," Dr. Schofield said. "Maybe it's a one-on-one instead of a group of people who start to approach someone. Maybe it just takes that one-on-one person to say I just need to ask how you're feeling, how you're really feeling."

She also said if you don't feel like you are able to talk to the person you suspect is depressed, it's okay to contact their family instead so that someone can try to get them help.

The 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness also provides specific steps you can take to help your child, family member, or friend who could be suicidal.

They have ways you can support recovery and prevent suicide.

There are also tips available about speaking with police about a person's mental health during a crisis situation.

Dr. Schofield said the National Institute of Mental Health is also a good resource for mental health information.

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