Preventing suicides in Idaho during Suicide Prevention Month and every month

September 20, 2022
Elke Shaw-Tulloch, Division of Public Health

Death by suicide is listed as the cause of death for far too many Idahoans. In 2020, Idaho had the fifth highest suicide rate in the United States. That is very concerning, but it’s also important to know that suicide is preventable and most people who make a suicide attempt don’t want to die. They just want the pain to stop. Providing care and hope to someone having suicidal thoughts can help save a life. There are things you can do to help.

What are some of the warning signs that someone might be thinking about suicide?

Warning signs include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or completing suicide
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves by searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Feeling like a burden to others
  • Having consistent nightmares
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Increased aggression, anger, or irritability
  • Change in sleep habits – either too much sleep or too little
  • Extreme mood swings

Are there certain times in a person’s life that are more likely to increase a person’s risk of suicide?

The risk that someone might attempt suicide is higher if these signs are linked to a painful or stressful event or a loss. The risk is also greater when these signs are new or begin to happen more frequently. The risk of suicide is even greater if a person has access to lethal means. Those experiencing a mental illness, especially a mood disorder, are at a higher risk for making a suicide attempt and dying by suicide. Most people who die by suicide are not seeking mental health treatment at the time of their death. They often feel alone and isolated.

What should you do if you recognize some of these warning signs?

Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. The best thing to do is to ask the question directly: Are you thinking about killing yourself? And then listen to their response.

Do not leave someone alone who is actively having serious thoughts of suicide. You can instill hope in that person with statements like, “I care if you live.” You also should do your best to work with the person to safely restrict his or her access to a method for killing themselves, such as firearms or drugs. Or you may need to encourage and help the person see a mental health provider. Call 911 or take the person to the hospital if you believe he or she can’t be safe.

What are some of the local suicide prevention resources we can use?

The most familiar and excellent resource is the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, accessible by simply dialing 9-8-8 anywhere. Also available day and night are local crisis centers in Boise, Caldwell, Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Moscow, Orofino, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello. Information about the crisis centers and other resources can be found by calling the Idaho CareLine, which is available by dialing 2-1-1 anywhere in Idaho. 

Elke Shaw-Tulloch is the administrator of the Division of Public Health, and the state’s public health officer. She has worked for the department since 1996 and was promoted to division administrator in 2012. Since February 2020, she has focused most of her time on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. 


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