Ken Albarez for BR.bridgerescue.073019.jpg

West Baton Rouge Parish Lt. Ken Albarez talks and later rescues a pregnant woman who planned to commit suicide Monday by jumping from the Interstate 10 Mississippi River bridge.

Suicide is often an issue addressed from a distance. We express sympathy for a family and lament a life lost. But suicide is no longer a distant concern; it is a looming crisis. Year after year, suicide rates continue to climb, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Here in Louisiana, the suicide rate increased almost 30% from 1999-2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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As we recognize National Suicide Prevention Month in September, we bring attention to a crisis occurring in our own backyards. It touches families, friends, co-workers and neighbors, many of whom may never show symptoms of a worsening mental health condition. These deaths shine a light on the secrecy and stigma surrounding mental illness and the rising suicide rates in our country.

You can make an impact on this national crisis. If someone you know is:

  • Talking about wanting to die, feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, being a burden to others
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly

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  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Attempting to seek revenge or expressing extreme rage
  • Experiencing violent mood swings

Take the first step. Reach out and offer support. Don’t wait to find out if their feelings will escalate or if someone else will step in to help. Encourage them to seek treatment from the appropriate resource.

Mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic status; most importantly, it can be treated.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. 

Deborah Spiers

administrator, Oceans Behavioral Hospital

New Orleans