Stephanie Berg, MD
Palmetto Health Behavioral Care Day Treatment
When people talk about suicide and mental health issues, there tends to be a stigma associated with it. However, anyone around us could be suffering with mental health issues, whether it be a coworker, a friend or family member. They might even be considering suicide. Stephanie Berg, MD, Palmetto Health Behavioral Care Day Treatment psychiatrist, reminds us that the brain is just like any other organ in the body, and it gets sick, too.
“Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder – these are brain illnesses, just like any other illness in the body,” she said. “Just like diabetes is a disease of the pancreas and COPD is a disease of the lungs, we’d like to see it become more acceptable to talk about mental illness as a disease of the brain and take away the stigma around it.”
In a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control, it was found that over half of the people who died by suicide had not been diagnosed with mental illness, an important risk factor. Other risk factors include:
- Health issues, including a substance abuse problem, chronic health issues, and people with history of traumatic brain injury.
- Access to lethal means, such as firearms or stockpiled pills.
- Increased stress, such as relationship difficulties, financial troubles, employment difficulties, or legal problems.
- Life history factors, such as history of suicide attempts, family history of suicide, and history of childhood trauma, including abuse.
- A feeling of disconnection from society, family or friends.
So, how do you know that someone may be thinking about suicide? Dr. Berg says to look for these cues:
- Talking about death, hopelessness, being a burden, and how much he or she hurts either emotionally or physically.
- A change in behavior, such as substance use (which causes impulsivity, depression and anxiety, decreases inhibitions, and causes alienation of relationships), planning for suicide, isolating or severing ties, giving possessions and money away, change in sleep patterns, or irritability.
- Mood changes such as depression, anxiety, lack of interest, agitation, but also relief or sudden mood change due to decision to act on suicidal thoughts.
If you are worried about yourself or someone else thinking about suicide, Dr. Berg says there are ways you can help. Here are some steps you can take to help someone:
- Don’t be afraid to ask. You won’t put the idea of dying by suicide in his or her head. Listen, be nonjudgmental, and help them focus on reasons to live.
- Keep them safe. Remove lethal means such as firearms or pills.
- Be present. Really listen when someone is talking to you about it.
One last thing you can do for someone is to help them connect. Here are some resources than can help:
The Behavioral Care program at Palmetto Health is one of the largest in South Carolina. We offer a wide array of psychiatric and addiction services to meet the needs of children, adolescents and adults. People turn to our caring team for many inpatient and outpatient treatment options for psychiatric illnesses or addictions.
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To schedule a free, confidential assessment, call 1-888-724-7888 or 803-434-4813.