blue bulletin from bcidaho

Suicide awareness in Idaho

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Idaho ranked 12th in the nation for suicide-related deaths in 2021. Suicide is the ninth-leading cause of death in Idaho, making it a major public-health issue. Additionally, the Idaho Behavioral Health Collaborative has named Idaho a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area.

With mental health support for those who are struggling with mental health hard to come by, each of us can play a role in supporting those who may need help. Knowing what to watch for and how you can encourage someone to seek help can make a big difference.

man talking to a doctorSymptoms and warning signs

It’s not always clear when someone is struggling with mental health, but there may be subtle signs and symptoms.

Here are some of the warning signs the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) recommends watching out for:

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Talking, writing about or threatening suicide
  • Isolation or social withdrawal
  • Researching methods of suicide while also stockpiling pills or seeking guns
  • Depression, moodiness and feelings of hopelessness
  • Unexplained anger or irritability
  • Changes in eating, sleeping, personal care or other behavior
  • Increased use or misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Being unnecessarily risky or reckless
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities or hobbies
  • Sudden, unexpected loss of freedom or fear of punishment or humiliation

Triggering events

These warning signs may be triggered by something that happened or a combination of events, including:

  • Being expelled from school or fired from work
  • A recent, unwanted move
  • Loss of someone close
  • Public embarrassment
  • Serious financial issues
  • Prejudice and discrimination (LGBTQ+, older adults and other vulnerable groups)

How you can help

IDHW lists some ways you can help someone who you know or suspect is thinking about suicide:

Ask about suicide

When talking to someone who you think might be suicidal, be straightforward and ask them if they are thinking about suicide. Talking about suicide does not put the idea of it into someone’s head.

When talking about suicide, IDHW suggests asking these questions:

  • Ask directly: “Are you thinking of suicide/killing yourself?”
  • Start by talking about warning signs you’ve noticed to ask: “I’ve noticed you seem to be [insert warning sign]. Sometimes, when people are [insert warning sign], they are thinking of suicide. Are you?”

Listen well

Listening to someone with suicidal thoughts can help create a sense of belonging. Avoid trying to solve their problems for them and focus on what they are telling you. Don’t argue or be judgmental.

Instill hope

Use inclusive statements by using “us” and “we” to help someone who is suicidal feel more hopeful and supported. Mention how much you care about them. Encourage conversations about joy, strengths and what drives them to live. Tell them help is available.

Get help

Connect a suicidal person with someone who can help them as soon as you can. Help them find a mental health provider and bring together people they trust to support them. You can call or text the Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline at 988 for mental health provider referrals and other resources.

If someone threatens suicide and has a weapon, call 911.

Ways to help lower suicide risk

Make sure that the suicidal person’s environment is safe to lower their risk of committing suicide.

Keep follow-up visits

According to a report from JAMA Psychiatry, someone is at a higher risk of suicide immediately after a recent hospital discharge linked to behavioral health. To help lower this risk, make sure to set up a follow-up visit with a behavioral health provider within seven days after being discharged. Connection to ongoing care is essential, and a mental health provider can help create a treatment plan and provide support.

Secure guns

Safely store guns and remove them from the house of a potentially suicidal person. Cutting off access can save lives, especially during mental-health crises. The Harvard School of Public Health states that access to guns is linked to a greater risk of suicide.

Keep alcohol and prescription drugs out of sight

Store alcohol and prescription drugs safely and away from those at risk of suicide. Make sure only you have access to your prescription drugs and keep track of the amount. Dispose of any unused prescriptions by taking them to drug takeback locations. The Idaho Office of Drug Policy has an online search tool to help you find a drug takeback location near you.

More resources from Blue Cross of Idaho

Blue Cross of Idaho is committed to providing resources for suicide prevention and mental health. Here are some resources that can help:

For more information, visit Blue Cross of Idaho’s mental health education page.


Published: September 6, 2023