Suicide facts, warning signs and ways you can help save a life

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Marilyn Monroe. Hunter S. Thompson. Chris Cornell. Chester Bennington. All famous names with one thing in common: They all committed suicide. But, this isn’t only a problem for the famous. It affects countless numbers of families and friends across the country.

In fact, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,965 Americans die by suicide each year, and for every death, there are 25 attempts.

It’s also a growing problem. The AFSP’s statistics also show the suicide rate per 100,000 individuals has steadily increased from 10.97 in 2006 to 13.42 in 2016, the most recent year available on their site.

Warning signs

In many cases, suicide manifests itself as a solution to an intense emotional or physical pain. While it varies from person to person, there are signs that could show what the person is thinking.

“Most people who have actually attempted or completed suicide have made suicidal statements. You really want to take suicidal statements seriously,” said Gagan Singh, MD. Dr. Singh is the chief medical officer at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital.

Dr. Singh also notes people who have had a significant change in their mood or in how they view themselves, and those who are talking about being very anxious or very distressed, are ones to worry about. They may also state they don’t feel like they’re connecting with others or that no one cares about them.

Additionally, people who have a history of past attempts and those who have had people close to them attempt to kill themselves are more at risk. When you add in alcohol and illicit drugs, the risk goes up.

Men are more likely to commit suicide than women. The AFSP notes white males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016 with the highest rate of suicide being middle-aged white men.

“But, it is something that affects everybody,” said Dr. Singh. “We’ve had kids that have had suicide attempts, and we’ve had really old people who have had suicide attempts.”

Depression’s impact on suicide risk

Depression does affect a person’s risk of suicide. However, Dr. Singh noted not everyone who is suicidal is depressed.

“We don’t often think about anxiety being associated with suicide, but somebody with horrible anxiety will have suicidal thoughts, too,” said Dr. Singh. “Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder markedly elevates the risk of suicide as well.”

Suicide can be independent of any behavioral health diagnosis, and there are other things that are commonly involved. Dr. Singh noted about half of suicides involve alcohol or drugs in some way.

Other cases may involve someone who has had a major loss and feels there is no other way out. Dr. Singh noted someone like this may or may not have been depressed, but perhaps they got their entire purpose from being a great provider for their family. They would be at a high risk as well.

Dr. Singh also noted, while we normally think of someone with depression having several weeks of feeling down or low, that doesn’t always hold true for suicidal people. In those cases, the person suffers from an intense emotional distress that could manifest for a long period or even a short time, brought on by something in particular.

What can you do?

Dr. Singh says it’s important to talk to people if you suspect they are down or depressed.

“Ask how they’re feeling. Let them know you care about them,” said Dr. Singh. “Let them know there is help available.”

Additionally, Dr. Singh said you need to make sure you take away things that could worsen the person’s situation, such as alcohol, drugs and any weapons they could hurt themselves with. Then, get them professional help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a phone number staffed by behavioral health specialists, can help. Simply call 1-800-273-TALK to get connected with someone who can help you or the person you’re afraid is considering suicide.

“If you fear someone is imminently suicidal, get them to the nearest ER, or seek help with their own health professional,” advised Dr. Singh.

It takes time

For many people who commit suicide, it is a solution to an immediate problem—an intense emotional or physical pain. It doesn’t have to be.

Dr. Singh noted it’s a matter of helping the person get through the difficult time, so they can calm their minds and work through the problem. Rethinking the problem and workings with others on it can help the emotional distress and the need to kill yourself go away.

“It’s really important to give it time and to reach out for help,” said Dr. Singh.

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6 Comments

  • LINDA FLYNN says:
    Took my son there.  They released him after 12 hours and did absolutely nothing to help. Chastised him, made him feel worse.  The doctor was rude.  There were about 30 men in one room.  It was basically a place for transients to sleep for the night.  Bugs crawling on the wall, in the beds. Not a good place to get help.
    
  • Shawn says:
    A dear friend committed suicide.   She showed no signs. In fact was always smiling and more concerned about those around her than herself.  Though looking back on her life it was a difficult one.  She suffered in silence.  
  • Caroline L. says:
    Depression and anxiety are dangerous! Considering that no one really knows what’s on another’s mind, any positive and calm reassurances help. Smiles, hugs, and listening matter. Kindness  can really matter.
  • Jo Ann Crooks says:
    I would like to share with you a poem I wrote:
    
    She Was Loved
    
    She had long blond hair
    And blue eyes.
    A bit heavy,
    She always greeted me warmly
    When I came to the counter.
    She worked in the same store as my mother.
    
    I knew she had two young children.
    One day she wasn’t there,
    Nor the next day, 
    Or the next.
    I heard she committed suicide;
    Drove her car out to the desert and shot herself.
    
    Didn’t she know how precious she was?
    Didn’t she know how much she was loved,
    And how much she would be missed?
    Would it have made a difference
    If she had known;
    If we had told her so?
    
    
  • Ray P. says:
    The key to feeling loved is to love.  To love is to take action.  Do something worthwhile. Take a few minutes each day to love another person.  Sometimes you will feel awkward.  That's okay.
    Go ahead and love anyway.  Ask yourself, "what do I have to lose by making even a small effort
    to reach out to someone who may be in need in the particular moment."  Good luck.  All the best!
  • Janine says:
    I feel like I've disappointed everyone....my children especially.
    They don't understand who I am and why I feel this way...
    I have No Insurance to seek help. My current husband lives 3 hours away...
    We moved together in June but where We were living was very unhealthy.
    Dirty, isolated, no one for me to talk to while he was at work.
    I left and am living with 1 of my son's. Can't find a job, feeling useless.
    I had a breakdown earlier this year and was seeking counseling.
    I told the Phychiatrist I was tired....just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.
    Well, that caused a Red Flag and they wanted me to go to the nearest hospital and check myself in for observation.
    I did, and it was the worse experience I've ever had to deal with!
    They just put me in a room...had to where a special color outfit, no one came to talk to me, they just wanted me to watch TV and sleep....
    After I spent the night, they wanted me to do at 72 hour inpatient in the Phsych ward! I refused and eventually they discharged me.
    I'm not on any antidepressants, don't have insurance where we moved, a different state...
    I've applied for so many jobs and Nothing!
    I have a gap in work hystory of 11 yrs where I was a homemaker. Plus I'm in my 60s now.
    I have no where to call home, and I'm so very scared!
    I raised 5 children, had 3 marriages, and I guess everyone just looks at me as a total burden......😭

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