Perinatal Suicide – There is Hope

As I compose my thoughts on the topic of suicide in the perinatal period, I find myself struggling with how to start. Usually one would start by discussing why this subject is important. And then move on to risk factors and warning signs, finally ending with what to do. But ending with what to do feels misplaced for this topic. I want readers to know, above all else, there is hope and, through treatment, ways to feel better. Suffering doesn’t have to meet a permanent end.  So, I’ve decided to start with instilling hope by providing direction.

What to do if you are having suicidal thoughts:

  • Tell someone you trust. Often times depression can make you feel like a burden to your family and friends. This is not true. These thoughts are symptoms of your depression, not facts
  • Thoughts of suicide are treatable
  • There is always hope for healing. No matter what you are facing, there are solutions and support. You don’t have to do this alone

What to do if you are worried about your loved one having suicidal thoughts:

  • Asking someone if she is suicidal does not make her suicidal. Question her in a direct and nonjudgmental way, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
  • Take thoughts of suicide seriously
  • If you ask her about suicidal thoughts and she denies these, but you notice changes in her behaviors trust your intuition and reach out for support
  • It isn’t your job to fix or stop her suicidal thoughts; your role is to get her connected to a mental health professional who can make recommendations for the next steps in getting treatment
  • Talking about suicide and supporting someone who is suicidal can bring up so many thoughts, feelings and worries. Don’t lose yourself in this. Make sure you have the support you need

Getting help:

  • Secure any weapons you may have access to or ask someone to do this for you
  • Call 911 and ask for a mental health officer
  • Go to the nearest Emergency Department
  • Call Austin’s Psychiatric Emergency line at: 512-472-4357
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours, at 800-273-8255
  • Reach out to established providers like a psychiatrist, therapist, or OBGYN

Risk factors:

  • A woman who has a mental health diagnosis and is not engaged in treatment or stopped her psychiatric medication when learning she is pregnant
  • Young maternal age
  • Single mom
  • Unplanned, unwanted pregnancy
  • Non-Caucasian
  • Domestic Violence
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Access to firearms

The warning signs

  • Talking about having no reason to live, feeling hopeless
  • Researching ways to commit suicide/making a plan
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits – note, in the perinatal period, a woman going without sleep, at all, for 48 hours requires medical intervention
  • Engaging in risky behavior that could lead to death
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Giving away possessions, putting affairs in order, and/or making a will

Above warning signs are adapted from National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Prevention

You don’t have to wait until suffering becomes an emergency. If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the above risk factors or warning signs, reach out for help. Support is available and there is no need to suffer. Two places to start include:

 

 

 

Erin Fassnacht, LCSW

4022 Manchaca RdAustin, TX 78704

email: erin@erinfassnacht.com

phone: 512-815-2521

website: erinfassnacht.com

 

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