By Darren Boice
Director of Ambulatory Behavioral Health, Mission Health
Recent high-profile suicides in the news tell us something that we are very familiar with in western North Carolina: the numbers of people dying by suicide are increasing and they are people we know.
The key information is that there are ways we can all help and there are many resources here in our community for people to get the help they need.
In some counties in WNC, the increase in people dying by suicide is staggering. Below are the numbers of suicides per 100,000 over two successive five-year periods (2006-2010 and 2011-2015) in three WNC counties:
- Mitchell County – Increased from 9.3 to 18.5
- Buncombe County – Increased from 12.5 to 16.5
- McDowell County – Increased from 12.1 to 18.7
Numbers for the entire state of North Carolina increased only slightly from 12 to 12.7 over these same time periods.
There are warning signs that can let us know that our friends, loved ones, co-workers or neighbors are in need of help. If you see noticeable changes in how someone you know is showing up in everyday life or if they are acting differently from what you would regularly expect, ask them about it.
Ask them if there is anything new or different that’s happening in their life right now. Your questions can come from the relationship you have with that individual – but most importantly, it will mean something to them that you are asking that question.
Being willing to have these conversations is key. Some people who are secretly hurting may be willing to hear about help options. You might say, “Have you ever thought about getting help? There are options right here in western North Carolina that can help you at no cost (direct to Vaya Health Line below).”
Often suicide happens as a result of an impulse, but the signs are there beforehand with a window for us to help the people we know.
The many warning signs of suicide may include, but are not limited to:
- Depression or other mental illnesses
- Showing a loss of hope
- Withdrawing/disconnecting from relationships
- Showing a lack of interest in things that used to excite them
- Acting like they don’t care
- Giving away items
- Saying things that indicate they aren’t looking past the present
- Sudden change to overly optimistic or saying everything is great
- Increased alcohol or drug use
Suicide Prevention on the Frontline
Within the past year, Mission Health primary care teams have implemented a universal screening for depression and suicidal thoughts at annual well check visits with their patients. Now, starting at age 13, patients will be asked at least two questions about depression risks. If there are positive responses to those questions, several more questions will be asked, including questions about thoughts of suicide and behaviors indicating a plan for suicide. If those are positive, primary care teams have access to behavioral health resources for support around suicide prevention and safety.
We’ve moved to a model of providers at every level of care becoming the front line for suicide prevention.
Who to Call
- Vaya Health Line: 1-800-849-6127
- This line is operated by Licensed Mental Health Clinicians in western North Carolina. It is a 24/7 crisis and referral service line.
- Access to crisis, mobile and referral services.
- Open to residents with any types of insurance or no insurance at all.
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Veterans, please press #1 when calling.
- Website: suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Behavioral Health Urgent Care: 828-254-2700
- C3 @ 356 Comprehensive Care Center – 356 Biltmore Avenue Asheville, NC 28801.
- Open 24 hours a day.
- Call or walk in at any time to get help for behavioral health, developmental health and substance use issues.
- RHA Mobile Crisis: 1-888-573-1006
- Providing service to: Alexander, Buncombe, Caldwell, Henderson, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Transylvania, and Yancey counties in North Carolina.
- Appalachian Community Services Mobile Crisis: 1-888-315-2880
- Providing service to: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in North Carolina.
- Daymark Mobile Crisis: 1-877-492-2785
- Providing service to: Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Watauga, and Wilkes counties in North Carolina
- Catawba Valley Behavioral Health (CVBH) Mobile Crisis: 1-888-235-4673
- Providing service to: Burke and Cleveland counties in North Carolina
Darren Boice, MSW, LCSW, is Director of Ambulatory Behavioral Health for Mission Health.