Now more than ever, we need to talk about suicide and find ways of addressing the causes, especially among young people. September 4th to 10th is National Suicide Prevention Week. The week provides a platform for people impacted by suicide to share their experiences and help raise awareness of this silent killer. Suicide prevention awareness needs attention.
What are the Risk Factors of Suicide?
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and the second leading cause of death among American youth.
The scary thing about suicide is that anyone can be a victim. Suicidal tendencies aren’t specific to any demographic, race, or gender. Reasons for suicidal behavior and self-harm vary from case to case. However, certain risk factors and stressors increase the chances of a loved one taking their life.
Mental Health Conditions
Almost fifty percent of people who take their life have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Most people, through professional help, learn to cope with severe mental disorders. However, at some point, mental health conditions can take a toll on someone, resulting in suicidal tendencies.
If you have a loved one who suffers from mental health conditions, check up on them and get closer to them. Even if they get the help they need, it doesn’t guarantee that those thoughts won’t creep in.
Chronic depression amplifies suicidal tendencies because of the constant feeling of sadness and hopelessness. Unsurprisingly, suicidal thoughts thrive in this negative emotional state. Treating clinical depression is vital in reducing the risk of suicide. Learning to recognize signs and symptoms of depression in those close to you is also crucial.
It isn’t surprising that trauma contributes to suicide. Some people can’t overcome the emotional distress caused by a traumatic experience. For instance, childhood traumatic events often affect a person’s mental state, fueling suicidal thoughts later in life.
Drug and Substance Abuse
Drugs, especially hallucinogens, alter the mental state. This makes substance abuse risky for people already diagnosed with mental disorders. For instance, certain drugs can amplify the symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis. Consistent substance abuse takes a toll on mental well-being, increasing feelings of despair, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts. Ultimately, all these factors significantly influence the risk of suicide.
Suicide Prevention: Warning Signs
Quick action on your part could help prevent a loved one from committing suicide. The warning signs below are often indicators that someone is suicidal.
- Self-harm behavior: A person engaging in risky behavior like drunk driving and unsafe sex can be a cry for help. Self-harm behavior, as mentioned earlier, is a risk factor for suicide.
- Talking about suicide: While not everyone discussing death is thinking about taking their life, suicidal people often have an unhealthy obsession with death. Someone may even talk about how they can already imagine what it would be like if they were not alive.
- Making preparations: People contemplating suicide often make preparations before the act. Sadly, most people close to them don’t even notice it. Someone will start preparations by reconnecting with long-lost friends, visiting family, writing a will, and giving away possessions.
- Sudden behavior changes: While people handle stressful events differently, unexplained mood swings in a loved one could cause alarm. For instance, a person acting unbothered by a life-changing health diagnosis has already thought about death and could be preparing to take their life.
- Emotional indifference: Becoming apathetic is natural when dealing with stressful situations. However, sudden emotional detachment could point to a more serious issue. Be wary if a loved one loses interest in their hobbies and daily routine.
- Withdrawing from society: Suddenly withdrawing from friends and family is often cause for concern. People contemplating suicide may withdraw from their support networks, making it harder for their loved ones to offer support.
How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal
The most important thing to do if someone shows suicidal tendencies is to take them seriously. You may only have a limited period to change their mind and save their life. Here’s what you should do to help a suicidal person:
When approaching the conversation, be firm but polite. While this approach seems reckless, it is your best hope of preventing a tragedy. If someone is suicidal, it will take them some time to open up and confide in you. You only need to show them that you are there no matter what, for when they want to talk. Sometimes, all a person wants to know is that there is someone in their corner who actually cares.
If someone chooses to open up, listen deeply to what they say. Keep in mind that they are in a vulnerable place before you make any remarks. It’s okay if you have no solutions to offer at the moment. Just being there for them makes all the difference.
Offer Support and Encourage Professional Help
The truth is that family and friends can only provide support to a certain level. Only a professional can diagnose and treat suicidal thoughts. You can, however, make an impact by supporting them through this rough patch. For instance, pick up a physical activity routine that you both enjoy. Exercise helps reduce the effects of depression and anxiety and might be a healthy distraction.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a list of resources for suicide prevention, whether it’s for you or a loved one. There are several crisis line numbers you can call from anywhere in the US, as well as information on specific resources for youth and family and professional programs. You can find a list of crisis lines from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or text 988 if you’re in crisis.
You can also access help from:
- An urgent care center
- Primary care provider
- Local psychiatric clinic
- Local walk-in clinic
National Suicide Prevention Week: Be Prepared
Suicide is a silent killer that everyone should talk about more. And because of that, many continue to lose people and loved ones. Talking about suicide won’t drive someone to suicide. Instead, it might be exactly what they needed to change their mind. This National Suicide Prevention Week, let’s learn to listen to what is unsaid and how to recognize suicidal tendencies in those around you. And when someone decides to open up and confide in you, stay judgment-free and open. Look for ways of helping them lift that dark cloud hanging over them.