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Warning signs of suicide in young people

CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta  

(CNN) -- College students are heading to class this week, and for some it will prove to be a little too much. There is a suicide warning from CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. You can read about it in this week's edition of TIME magazine. Sanjay voiced his concerns Monday on "American Morning" with anchor Bill Hemmer:

HEMMER: You wrote about suicide in TIME magazine. Why did you pick the topic now?

GUPTA: Well, you know, suicide is ... one of the toughest decisions for doctors, one of the toughest things we should face, I should say. I took care of a 22-year-old woman not too long ago who had shot herself in the head.

Being a neurosurgeon, I was called in to address that and actually operate on that patient. But it really did get me thinking about young kids and why they do turn to suicide, and I did a little bit of research and tried to give ... some of the ... early warning signs ... [such as] withdrawing from activities, dramatic changes in personalities, significant changes in eating habits or sleeping habits.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta says suicide attempts by college-age men and women rises in the fall (August 26)

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Those are some things we have heard about for quite some time. People sort of know those as warning signs in people who are thinking about suicide.

But there are also more immediate signs for people who are going to do it now. The time period between the decision and completing a suicide can be as little as five minutes -- often facilitated by alcohol.

They have a plan, but also having access to a lethal means, such as having a gun upstairs, or having grandma's pills that would be a lethal dose if taken. And giving away personal cherished possessions. Those are all signs that somebody is getting ready to possibly do something like this.

HEMMER: After an attempt is made, how do you find in general suicide patients do after that event?

GUPTA: Well, you know, there's been a lot of studies to see just how well the intervention programs, to make sure these patients don't do this again, how well they work. And as I wrote in the article, I was sort of disquieted about the chances of somebody like that. Because some articles quote up to a 47 percent chance that somebody would try it again, despite the fact that they got operated [on], despite the fact their life was saved, despite the fact that they have psychological intervention. Despite all those things, we're still not doing a very good job. These children, these young adults really have a hard time picking up the pieces, as they say.

HEMMER: How that is woman doing, the 22-year-old woman you treated?

GUPTA: She's doing well, from a physical standpoint. She's actually talking and communicating and doing very well. And so we're very encouraged by that, no question. We got the psychologist, we got the family, we got everybody involved to try and give her a chance, not only physically, but also emotionally. We're going to give it the best shot that we can.

HEMMER: Thank you, Sanjay. Good to talk to you.




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