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Pandemic suicide spike? Signs to watch for, how you can help

St. Augustine Beach Police chief says calls are ‘through the roof’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – During Tuesday's statewide briefing regarding COVID-19, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed concern about the effects of long-term isolation on rates of suicide and other issues like substance abuse and domestic abuse.

The St. Augustine Beach Police chief said his team is already seeing a significant increase in suicide calls for service over the past seven days, referring to his area's suicide rate as "through the roof."

Dr. Christine Cauffield, the CEO of LSF Health Systems and a licensed clinical psychologist, said it’s important to know what signs to look for in someone who might be thinking about suicide:

  • Extreme agitation or calm
  • Withdrawal
  • Excessive drinking or drug use
  • Talking about wanting to end their lives
  • Saying goodbye to others      
  • Giving away belongings

She said it’s beyond feeling a little blue and that most people who take their own lives are suffering from a diagnosed condition, such as bipolar disorder, PTSD or depression.

Cauffield said the best thing you can do if you notice these signs in someone is to talk to them about it.

“Some people believe the myth that if you mention suicide to someone that will then propel them to act on that. That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Cauffield said. “People that report that they have been suicidal and someone reached out, they state that they felt relieved that somebody saw them, heard them, knew how they were feeling and they were so grateful for the additional support.”

She said some good questions to ask include:

  • Are you thinking about suicide? I’m really worried about you.
  • How are you coping with what’s been happening in your life?
  • Are you thinking about dying?
  • Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself, such as excess medication?

“You have to have that tough conversation,” she said.

During these times when we might feel more isolated from one another and can't just show up at someone's home to give them a hug, some other options to let them know you care are:

  • Pick up the phone
  • Send a meal to their doorstep
  • Write cards and send pictures

“Do whatever it takes to help them feel connected, help them feel that someone cares, that somebody is thinking about them and caring about them and knowing that they’re hurting and wanting them to get help,” Cauffield said.

Also be ready to share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255.

They can also text “Home” to 741741 to get help.

The LSF Crisis Line is also available at 1-877-229-9098. For more information, go to www.lsfnet.org/lsf-health-systems.


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