National Suicide Prevention Week
As I’m sure you can guess from the title of this blog, this week (and month!) is designated as National Suicide Prevention Week. I thought it would be really fitting then to talk a little bit about this very important topic.
As of 2011, it is estimated that there are over 4.6 million survivors of attempted suicide. It is the 11th cause of death in the US with over 33,000 deaths per year.
Who is Likely to Attempt Suicide
Veterans have double the suicide rate of non-veterans. Active-duty soldiers die from suicide more than can be accounted for by all the deaths in the Iraq war.
LGBTQ youth and children are 3x the national averages to attempt suicide. These children are bullied and shamed for their sexual orientation leading to feelings of hopelessness.
Elderly people comprise approximately 12% of the population, yet they account for 18% of suicides. This is particularly a problem for men over the age of 85 who have the highest rate of suicide of any other group in the country. Also, suicide attempts by older men tend to result in death more so than any other group.
Teens- among children aged 15-19 years old, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death. Although girls are more likely to attempt suicide, boys are 4x more likely to actually die from suicide.
Risk factors are characteristics that increase the chances that a person will attempt suicide.
Mental Health diagnoses such as depression, substance abuse, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Conduct Disorder, and Anxiety Disorder
Serious physical illness; conditions with chronic pain
Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury
Access to lethal means of committing suicide including guns and drugs
Prolonged stress including bullying, relationship problems, homelessness
Stressful life events such as divorce, death of a loved one, financial crisis
Exposure to someone else’s suicide
Previous suicide attempt
Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma
Warning Signs of Suicide
The person talks about killing themselves, feeling hopeless, that they don’t have a reason for living, they feel like a burden to their loved ones, or that they feel trapped
You notice increased use of alcohol or drugs
They’re looking for ways to kill themselves such as looking online
They’ve withdrawn from activities that they normally enjoy
Isolating from family and friends
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions and making final preparations
Feeling depressed, loss of interest, shame, agitation, anger
Maybe you notice that the person has been feeling better lately and has increased energy
What to do if you Suspect Someone is Suicidal
1. The most important thing to do is to not ignore it! Many times people are afraid to talk about suicide or to ask the person if they’re thinking about suicide because they’re afraid that they’ll make the person more suicidal or cause them to follow through on their feelings. However, talking with someone actually reduced the likelihood that they will attempt suicide!
2. Do not leave the person alone. Don’t give them the opportunity to act on their impulses.
3. Ask questions. Ask them some of the following:
a. Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?
b. How have you been feeling lately?
c. Do you think that things might get better?
d. Do you have a gun at home?
e. Have you ever wanted to just give up?
4. Try to express your concern and that you care for the person. Let them see that they’re not alone and that you’re there to help.
5. If you are a teen or a child, ask an adult for help. You will not be betraying your friend or loved one by doing this! Asking for help is the best way that you can help them and show that you care. I’m not going to lie, they might get mad at you, but isn’t it better to have them mad than dead?
6. Call a professional for help. If the person is in therapy already, you can call their therapist. You can also bring them to the hospital if they’re willing to go. Now you can call or text 988 to speak with a mental health professional 24/7. Or if the person is willing, have them call 988 with you there to support them, and have them call now while they are with you. Don’t let them put you off with promises of calling later.
7. Offer to go with the person to get help. It can be scary, and your being there and showing that you care can really make a big difference.
8. If you think the person may have taken an overdose, call 911 immediately. Even if you don’t think they took a lethal dose. Sometimes people’s bodies react badly to various drugs so better to over-react than to under-react in this situation.
Suicidal thoughts and threats should always be taken seriously. You being there to support and listen can be extremely helpful for the suicidal person, but this is definitely a situation that requires professional help. Please don’t feel like you have to cope with this alone.
If you’d like help for yourself while coping with someone who is suicidal, or if you’d like depression treatment, please follow the link.