When Someone You Know Kills Themselves
I learned that someone I knew took their life this past weekend. I don't claim that we were close friends, if we were maybe I would have known there was trouble in her life. I do know that she left behind children, family, and friends who are shocked with no explanation.
I don't want to lecture or try to understand what led to the decision. Suicide is an extremely personal choice. We all go through dark days. Often we don't learn how deep that hole of darkness was for someone until its too late. The best remembrance I can offer is to give knowledge that may save a life.
The best way to minimize the risk of suicide is to know the risk factors and to recognize the warning signs of suicide. Take these signs seriously. Know how to respond to them. It could save someone's life.
How Prevalent Is Suicide?
Suicide is a potentially preventable public health problem. In 2014, the last year for which statistics are available, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. That year, there were nearly 43,000 suicides, and 1.3 million adults attempted suicide, according to the CDC. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people from age 10 to age 34.
Women try suicide more often, but men take their lives nearly four times the rate of women, accounting for 78% of suicides in the U.S.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 and the second leading cause for people ages 25 to 34.
Suicide rates have increased for middle-aged and older adults. One suicide death occurs for every 4 suicide attempts.
A gun is the most common method of suicide.
Are There Risk Factors for Suicide?
Risk factors for suicide vary by age, gender, and ethnic group. And risk factors often occur in combinations.
Over 90% of people who die by suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder. Many times, people who die by suicide have an alcohol or substance abuse problem. Often they have that problem in combination with other mental disorders.
Adverse or traumatic life events in combination with other risk factors, such as clinical depression, may lead to suicide. But suicide and suicidal behavior are never normal responses to stress.
Other risk factors for suicide include:
One or more prior suicide attempts
Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
Family history of suicide
Physical or sexual abuse
Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
Are There Warning Signs of Suicide?
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
Always talking or thinking about death
Clinical depression such as deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating that gets worse
Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
Losing interest in things one used to care about
Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
Talking about suicide or killing one's self
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Be especially concerned if a person is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20% and 50% of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt.
Many people have fleeting thoughts of death. Fleeting thoughts of death are less of a problem and are much different from actively planning to try suicide. Your risk of suicide is increased if you think about death and killing yourself often, or if you have made a suicide plan.
Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. A person who feels hopeless believes that no one can help with a particular event or problem. A person who feels helpless is immobilized and unable to take steps to solve problems. A person who feels worthless is overwhelmed with a sense of personal failure.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline