Health Check: Suicide prevention

Every 12 minutes in the United States, someone dies by suicide. (WJAR)

Every 12 minutes in the United States, someone dies by suicide.

"Every death by suicide is a tragedy,” said Dr. James Sullivan, a psychiatrist at Butler Hospital in Providence.

“When someone is known to the public and they die by suicide, that becomes a story,” he said, referring to the high-profile deaths of television chef, Anthony Bourdain, and fashion designer, Kate Spade. “That's becomes information for others and it's an opportunity for us in the medical field to take time to step back and make sure that we educate other people."

Sullivan said they treat 9,000 patients a year with mental illness at Butler, with 6,000 of them expressing suicidal thoughts.

"Typically, these thoughts of suicide do not emerge overnight,’ said Sullivan.

However, he said, most will never take their lives because of interventions. And many times, the interventions begin at home.

"Speaking of suicide does not encourage suicide,” he said. “In fact, it's very much our responsibility to do. If we're silent on this topic, that is what could contribute to someone's further illness, desperation and perhaps a step closer to suicide."

But when and how should you bring it up?

"If you see a loved one or a friend and they're not themselves and they're acting differently. If they're quiet, if they stop going to work,” he said should raise a flag. "Anything that is different that compels us to ask the question, 'Are you OK? What's up? Do you have any thoughts of hurting yourself?' That is important to ask," said Sullivan.

To learn more about suicide prevention, visit the Department of Health's website.

To learn about the Rhode Island Youth Suicide Prevention project, click here.

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