Suicide is a major topic of concern in the media these days. Suicide has touched most of us in one way or another. We have either heard about prominent celebrities committing suicide or been heart wrenched to find out about by a friend or loved one’s suicide. The shock of this news rings through us and we often wonder what could have been done to prevent this suicide. We wonder what we missed, or how we could have helped the victim.
Suicide rates are on the rise. Here are some statistics from cdc.gov, afsp.org and nihm.gov*
- Suicide rates have increased by 30% since 1999
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for those ages 10-34
- Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for those ages 35-55
- For every completed suicide, 25 attempt it
- 54% of suicide victims were not diagnosed with a mental health disorder
Suicide is not a mental disorder, it is a symptom. Many treatable mental health disorders carry a risk of suicide, such as depression or mood disorders. However, because of the high prevalence of mental health stigmatization in our culture, many people who could have sought treatment for suicidal impulses did not and paid the ultimate price. It is important for us to begin to think differently about mental health. We don’t stigmatize people for going to the doctor, why is therapy any different? In fact, why is therapy not as routine as going to the gym? The whole world would be better if we all sought after our mental health as much as we do our physical health. Surprisingly, mental and physical health are very connected. More blogs to come on the link between mental and physical health…
It is important to remember is that suicide is not “selfish.” In fact, the person considering suicide may truly believe the act is selfless because they feel like a burden to their loved ones. For those of you who may be considering suicide, your family and friends LOVE YOU! You are not a burden, you simply need help. We all need help sometimes and how you feel right now will most definitely pass. Never make a permanent decision on a temporary feeling.
One of the many questions that go through a loved one’s minds when thinking about preventing suicide are: “What are the warning signs?” and “What can I do to help if I see these signs in a loved one?”
- Extreme Mood Swings or Sadness: Long-lasting sadness, mood swings, and outbursts of rage.
- Being Isolated/ Withdrawal: Not feeling connected to anything or anyone. Isolating from people or activities one once loved this includes the loss of interest or pleasure in most or all activities the person previously enjoyed. Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities.
- Feeling Trapped: Talking about unbearable pain, or talking about being a burden to others.
- Hopelessness: Feeling a deep sense of hopelessness about the future, with the sense that circumstances cannot improve.
- Sleep Disturbance – Sleeping to little or too much.
- Sudden relief from sadness, a feeling of calm, or even joy: Suddenly becoming calm of elation after a long period of depression or moodiness.
- Changes in personality and/or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit marked changes in attitude or behavior. This can often include a “slowing down” effect in speech, thinking and affect (facial expressions). This could also be a “speeding up” in dangerous behaviors, risk taking, or talking about these topics more often. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance and hygiene.
- Increased anxiety, agitation, or rage: Talking about seeking revenge or behaving recklessly.
- Dangerous or self-harmful behavior: Risky behavior, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Increased alcohol or drug use: Using substances to cope with uncontrollable symptoms. This can decrease inhibitions and therefore increase the risk of suicide attempts due to low impulse control.
- Recent trauma or life crisis: Major life transitions or crises may give rise to suicidal ideation and attempts. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, losing housing, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job, or serious financial problems.
- Making preparations: Looking for access to lethal means such as buying a firearm or other means like poison or drugs. Visiting friends and family members out of the blue and saying goodbye. Talking as though they will never see you again. Giving away personal possessions. Making a will. Cleaning up room or home. Writing a suicide.
- Threatening suicide: From 50% to 75% of those considering suicide will give someone a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it.
Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously. Many people wonder if they should even bring up the topic to someone who they suspect is suicidal. The answer is yes! Talking about suicide is to prevent suicide. You cannot make someone suicidal by asking them if they are, on the other hand, if you do ask, then you have an opportunity to provide help.
If you suspect a loved one is suicidal:
- Ask: Make sure you use the right works such as “Do you want to kill yourself?” or “Do you want to commit suicide?”
- Take any weapons: If the person has means to a weapon or other object they could use to hurt themselves, remove it from the immediate premises and restrict their access to it if possible.
- Call 911 or take the person to the emergency room right away: Tell the person you cannot let them hurt themselves and that you are going to get them the help they need.
- Don’t leave the person alone: Utilize friends or family to stay with the person if needed while you call for help. Or call for help while the person is in your care.
- Help them connect: Help them understand that you care about them and still want them around.
- Find a Qualified Therapist: Just because this crisis is over, does not meant that the person is “out of the woods” yet. Make sure that your loved one receives regular psychotherapy and even psychiatric treatment from a qualified professional so they can find relief and recovery, as well as learn to cope with any suicidal feelings they might have again in the future.
- Follow up: Make sure after the crisis ends that you are checking in with them on a regular basis.
If you feel suicidal:
- Call someone for help: You can call anonymously 1(800) 273-8255 (24/7 to talk with the suicide prevention hotline), call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
- Find a qualified therapist.
Do you live the Hanford or Visalia California area? Call me to set up a therapy appointment today!
Reno NV Therapist / California Teletherapy