The Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) is urging residents to actively look for warning signs that their loved ones may consider suicide so that they may connect those individuals with prevention resources, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and local government entities.

"Being there and showing care and concern for someone who is vulnerable to suicide is invaluable. In these instances, we should all reserve judgment and understand that suicide is often caused by a disease we can't see, but we can look for the warning signs," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "I challenge all Louisiana residents to be aware of the warning signs. Everyone has a role in suicide prevention." World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. This year's theme is "Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives." WSPD serves as a call-to-action to individuals and organizations to combat suicide.

In a recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO), conservatively estimated that over 800,000 people die globally by suicide each year, about one death every 40 seconds. The true figure is likely larger, but the stigma associated with suicide, lack of reliable death recording procedures and religious or legal sanctions against suicide in some countries make counts inaccurate. Data issued in 2013 from the American Association of Suicidology shows the national rate of suicide is 13 per 100,000. In the same year, Louisiana's rate was 12.6 per 100,000. The number of lives lost each year due to suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined. In 2013, 583 Louisianans died by suicide.

Suicide is complex, involving psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors. Mental disorders, especially depression and alcohol use disorders, are a major risk factor for suicide in the United States. Experiences with conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, bereavement, loss or isolation are also strongly associated with suicidal behavior. A pro-active approach and offering a sympathetic, non-judgmental ear can make all the difference. Reaching out to loved ones involves active listening and engaging with a person in a non-judgmental and supportive way. An important aspect of reaching out also involves linking people to relevant professional services to ensure appropriate care and follow-up for that person.

Behavioral health and suicide prevention services are also available through local government entities, including South Central Louisiana Human Services Authority, Metropolitan Human Services District, Capital Area Human Services District, Imperial Calcasieu Human Services Authority, Central Louisiana Human Services District, Northwest Louisiana Human Service District, Northeast Delta Human Services District, Florida Parishes Human Services Authority and Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority. LDH offers additional resources through the Office of Behavioral Health. For more information contact Danita LeBlanc at danita.leblanc@la.gov or (225) 342-2540.

As a result of the stigma surrounding suicide, those who are bereaved by suicide are often perceived differently from those who lose a family member through another cause of death. Giving someone who has been bereaved by suicide the opportunity to talk about their loss in their own time and on their own terms can be a precious gift. Allowing them to express their full range of feelings can be cathartic and help them to take the first small step in moving through their grief. Starting the conversation may be difficult, but it will almost certainly be appreciated.

"Suicide is devastating for families, friends and community members who are left behind. Being mindful of the circumstances and the range of emotions suicide causes is important," said LDH Secretary for Behavioral Health Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham.

The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all of the state's residents. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter  and Facebook accounts.

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