Every day, Florida’s Poison Control Centers receive calls about people who have attempted to harm themselves with a poison. Sometimes the individual affected makes the call; other times, these calls come from hospitals or emergency responders. Sadly, most fatalities recorded by poison centers involve people who have purposely taken a deadly dose of either a medication or exposed themselves to a chemical.
According to the Florida Department of Health Injury Prevention Program, more than 500 Floridians die as a result of suicide by poisoning each year. Poisoning is the third most common form of suicide nationwide, after the use of a gun and suffocation.
Poison specialists consider any attempt to hurt oneself a mental health emergency, even if the substance taken wasn’t deadly. It is critical that anyone who feels the desire to hurt or kill oneself (or who has acted on that desire in any way) gets immediate medical care.
Callers who need in-depth crisis counseling are referred immediately to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) unless they’re at extreme risk; in that case, they’re kept on the line until emergency medical services arrive at the scene. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline connects individuals or families to their local community crisis center 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can make referrals to inpatient resources nearby.
Suicides can be prevented. To help prevent suicide by poison, remove old or unneeded medications and chemicals from the home. Do not stockpile medications “just in case.” If someone in your home is at high risk of suicide due to depression or a recent event, make sure all medications are secured and are given out by a responsible caregiver.
For more information about the problem of suicide, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, Florida Office of Suicide Prevention, or Florida Department of Children & Families-Suicide Prevention.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about feeling hopeless of having no will to live
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
This information was drawn from SuicidePreventionLifeline.org
Florida’s Poison Control Centers sometimes receive calls from callers who fear someone has poisoned them. In these cases, callers are referred to local law enforcement after their immediate symptoms are addressed. Poison center staff toxicologists and pharmacologists consult with law enforcement on cases of suspected intentional poisonings, and provide expert testimony for legal cases. Each year, the Florida Department of Health Injury Prevention Program only records about 10 poison homicides, which account for less than 1% of all homicides in the state. In 2013, there were 8 poison-related murders, which accounted for 0.07% of all homicides in the state.
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