Self-inflicted trauma wounds reach all-time high - East Idaho News
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Self-inflicted trauma wounds reach all-time high

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Editor’s note: This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, the national suicide and crisis lifeline in the U.S. is available by calling or texting 988. There is also an online chat at 988lifeline.org.

EIRMC’s professionals are seeing an unfortunate and tragic rise in self-inflicted traumas and deaths by suicide.

Each year, EIRMC keeps a record of self-inflicted trauma wounds and mortalities seen at the Level II Trauma Center. Since January 2024, the number of patients who have died from self-inflicted injuries already exceeds the entire number of such cases in all of 2023.

“If we stay on the same trajectory, we may see a 150% increase in deaths from suicide attempts. That does not account for the fact that we tend to see more self-inflicted injuries in the summer months, painting a grim picture for our suicide statistics,” explained Cheri Arnold, director of trauma services at EIRMC. “But there are resources, and we need people to know that they are not alone.”

Those at risk

Suicide rates are highest among men between the ages of 45 and 64. Dr. Michael Lemon, trauma medical director at EIRMC, is one of several trauma surgeons who responds to these cases.

“We talk about teenage suicide all the time, which is absolutely devastating, but the most common people to die by suicide are middle-aged men. It’s the highest risk group, and we don’t talk about them,” Dr. Lemon said.

With numbers on the rise, it is vital that the community understands this issue and what we can do to stop it.

Dr. Lemon specifically called out the increase in firearm-assisted suicides, which he says are on pace to at least double. He also points out that with individuals who attempt suicide with a gun, there is often no time for intervention or help.

“When you use a gun, it’s very final,” he said. “You can’t get the help you need.”

After suicide, not only is a life lost, but there are grieving people left behind, loved ones are left reeling.

“Unless you have a family member, friend, a neighbor, someone you know die by suicide, you just don’t know,” said Dr. Lemon.

Family and friends left behind after suicide face the agony of mourning their loved ones, often forced to contemplate why it happened and if it could have been prevented.

What causes suicide?

Psychiatrist Matt Larsen explains, “There aren’t any set causes of suicide, but we do know that a sense of loneliness and disconnect is often one of the driving forces.”

As society shifts from in-person interactions to online conversations, people can begin to feel lonely and lost.

“When a disconnect happens, people begin to worry that they’re a burden. They don’t talk to their spouse, parents or friends due to the concern of being a disappointment or a burden, and it just spirals,” said Dr. Larsen.

It’s important to recognize that life may not be occurring as it seems; the idea that everything is going “right” may not be correct.

Additional signs of potential suicide are sudden changes in life events that may shatter the person’s perception of life, such as the loss of a relationship or a job, as well as sudden and uncharacteristic habit shifts.

“Drinking and using drugs themselves aren’t going to point toward possible suicide warning signs, but suddenly drinking more or using more drugs can,” Dr. Larsen adds. “Check in with people you know, build connections.”

How to help

Becoming and remaining informed and prepared in the case of a crisis is the number one way to reduce suicide numbers. Keep any potential weapons in a locked safe, guns unloaded, and avoid the use of dangerous items while in a heightened state of emotion. Taking even 15 minutes to calm down could save a life.

Dr. Lemon says, “People need to recognize in themselves and in their families the warning signs. Suicidal thoughts, ideation, depression… you need to get help immediately. If you or your loved one is in imminent danger, call 911 or go to the ER.”

If you believe that someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, there are local and national resources that can help.

Resources

Idaho Crisis and Suicide Hotline

Call or text 988 to be connected with trained crisis workers who listen, provide support, and find resources to help. The service is available 24/7, free and confidential. Additional resources and support include:

  • Spanish (dial 988 and press 2 or text AYUDA to 988)
  • LGBTQA+ (dial 988 and press 3 or text PRIDE to 988)
  • Deaf and hard of hearing can obtain video support

Support for loss survivors is also available. 

Find Help Idaho

This free and confidential database can locate mental health professionals, crisis care centers, mental health facilities and additional resources for Idahoans.

211 Idaho CareLine

Call 211 or (800) 926-2588, or text 898211.

Free information and referral services are available from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare with resources for free or at low-cost that can be used to create a safety plan or find a support group. Available Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. MST.

Mental Health Hotline

Call (866) 903-3787 for free, confidential 24/7 mental health resources.

SAMHSA Helpline

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is a free, confidential 24/7 information service for individuals facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This resource provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and other community-based organizations that can help in times of trouble. 

Call (800) 662-4357 (HELP) or text your zip code to 435748 (HELP4U).

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