September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s a tough subject but knowing warning signs and risk factors of suicide, and how you can support a loved one in crisis is vital. And if you yourself are in crisis, know that you are not alone!
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2021 suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64 and the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34. Here are some additional statistics, provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
- Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are 4x more likely to die by suicide.
- 79% of people who die by suicide are male.
- 46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition – but research suggests that 90% may have experienced symptoms of a mental health condition.
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
- Transgender adults are nearly 9x more likely to attempt suicide at some point in their life compared to the general population.
Most people who die by suicide have a mental health issue. It may be a depression or substance abuse disorder. They may feel lonely, depressed, or isolated. They may have had a traumatic life experience. Many of the warning signs of suicidal feelings are also signs of depression.
People at risk of suicide may have any of these:
- Changes in eating and sleep habits
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Pulling away from friends and family members
- Acting out behaviors
- Running away
- Alcohol and drug use
- Not caring about personal appearance
- Excessive risk taking
- Fixation on death and dying
- Increased physical complaints linked to emotional distress, like stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness
- Loss of interest in work, school, and community
- Feelings of boredom
- Trouble concentrating
- Feelings of wanting to die
- Lack of response to praise
A person is at risk if they show signs of plans to die by suicide. They may:
- Give away favorite possessions and throw away important belongings
- Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
- Express bizarre thoughts
- Say “I want to kill myself”
- Say “I’m going to commit suicide”
- Say “I won’t be a problem much longer”
- Say “If anything happens to me, I want you to know ….”
- Write one or more suicide notes
The warning signs of suicide may seem like other health problems. Always talk with a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
What should you do?
Take threats of suicide as a cry for help. Always take statements of suicidal feelings, thoughts, behaviors, or plans very seriously. Any person who expresses thoughts of suicide needs help right away.
- Call or text 988 or 800.273.TALK right away. When people text 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who are part of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. An online chat option is also available. Or take the person to the nearest emergency room. Or contact their mental health provider.
- Take the person seriously.
- Don’t leave the person alone.
- Involve other people. Contact friends and family members.
- Express concern.
- Listen attentively.
- Ask direct questions.
- Acknowledge the person’s feelings.
- Offer support.
- Don’t promise confidentiality.
- Keep possibly harmful objects hidden. This includes weapons, firearms, and medicines.
- Prepare for the person to need to stay in the hospital if the healthcare provider advises this.
For more suicide prevention resources visit:
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- CDC Suicide Prevention
Content for this article is derived from the Staywell Health Library, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.