Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of nearly 45,000 people each year. Despite its obvious and saddening presence, there is still much to be discovered about how to prevent suicide. So, until doctors and psychologists have a better grasp on the topic, it’s up to us to know the signs. Here’s what you need to know in order to help identify a friend, acquaintance, or loved one who is experiencing suicidal thoughts and get them the help they need.
Risk Factors for Suicide
A staggering 90 percent of suicides are individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and bipolar disorder — the suicide rate among those with BPD is 26 times greater than the population of the country. Individuals without basic healthcare are also at risk.
If you know someone with a psychiatric diagnosis, you shouldn’t automatically assume they are suicidal. However, it won’t hurt to check in with that person regularly regarding their mental health. A simple phone call, text message, email, or in-person visit to ask them how they are feeling will let them know you care and that you are a safe person to talk to if they ever find themselves struggling.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Take warning signs seriously. Statistics show that 50 to 75 percent of people who commit suicide showed signs beforehand — including outright saying they want to take their life. You should always assume someone who is threatening suicide is serious, even if they haven’t followed through with past threats. Researchers are working on a way to make reaching out for help easier for people who are considering taking their own lives via hotlines, text messages, and free, in-person clinics. Until then, get help if you or someone you know is expressing or showing signs, such as:
- Talking/threatening to hurt or kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill oneself (getting pills or a firearm, for example)
- Feeling hopeless and trapped
- Increase in drug and alcohol use
- Withdrawal from family, friends and society
- Acting reckless
- Feeling uncontrolled rage or anger, to include seeking revenge
- Giving away prized possessions and putting affairs in order
- Dramatic mood changes
- Feeling anxious, agitated, and unable to sleep
- Seeing no sense of purpose in life or reason to live
Elevating Your Mood
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, consider getting a pet to help you work through feelings of anxiety and sadness even before having any suicidal thoughts. In fact, it’s quite possible you could prevent them altogether. Dogs are known for having mood-boosting and health-related qualities including:
- Elevated levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax; heart attack prevention and longer lifespan than non-dog owners
- Fewer doctor’s visits
- Decreased blood pressure and less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners.
You can also improve your mood by exercising and eating nutritiously. Exercise relieves tension by releasing endorphins. Another way to relieve anxiety is to improve the energy in your home. This can be done by clearing clutter, cleaning messes, and opening your windows more often.
Myths Versus Facts
Don’t think you know everything about suicide. Many misconceptions exist. For example, the holidays are not the most popular time for someone to take his or her life — it’s actually the spring. Furthermore, studies show that the higher the altitude, the greater the risk for suicide. While teenagers are a high at-risk group, white men over the age of 85 are more apt to take their lives — and Caucasians in general have a higher suicide rate than African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. What’s more, there’s a link to creativity, depression, and suicide.
Consider writers such as Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, and David Foster Wallace — they all wrote in the first person, which is considered another sign. While depression gets a lot of attention as the top reason for suicide, alcoholism also plays a large role, too.
Suicide is one of those taboo topics that nobody likes to discuss, yet it has a huge presence in our society. Worrying about confrontation or feeling embarrassed if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and need help is not worth the cost of a life. There are copious resources and treatment methods available that protect the privacy of its patients in a judgment-free manner.
Juliet Hollingsworth is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the guest blogger who wrote the article.