Suicide Information & Prevention...

        

Common Misconceptions about Suicide

FALSE: People who talk about suicide won't really do it.
Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like "you'll be sorry when I'm dead," "I can't see any way out," — no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

FALSE: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.
Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.

FALSE: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

FALSE: People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.

FALSE: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
You don't give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

 

Warning signs of suicide

Most suicidal individuals give warning signs or signals of their intentions. The best way to prevent suicide is to recognize these warning signs and know how to respond if you spot them. If you believe that a friend or family member is suicidal, you can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives, showing that you care, and getting a doctor or psychologist involved.

Major warning signs for suicide include talking about killing or harming oneself, talking or writing a lot about death or dying, and seeking out things that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as weapons and drugs. These signals are even more dangerous if the person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, suffers from alcohol dependence, has previously attempted suicide, or has a family history of suicide.

Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It's not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide—it's a cry for help.

A more subtle but equally dangerous warning sign of suicide is hopelessness. Studies have found that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide. People who feel hopeless may talk about "unbearable" feelings, predict a bleak future, and state that they have nothing to look forward to.

Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It's not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide — it's a cry for help.

Other warning signs that point to a suicidal mind frame include dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as going from outgoing to withdrawn or well-behaved to rebellious. A suicidal person may also lose interest in day-to-day activities, neglect his or her appearance, and show big changes in eating or sleeping habits.

Suicide Warning Signs

Talking about suicide

Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as "I wish I hadn't been born," "If I see you again..." and "I'd be better off dead."

Seeking out lethal means

Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Preoccupation with death

Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.

No hope for the future

Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped ("There's no way out"). Belief that things will never get better or change.

Self-loathing, self-hatred

Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden ("Everyone would be better off without me").

Getting affairs in order

Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.

Saying goodbye

Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again.

Withdrawing from others

Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.

Self-destructive behavior

Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a "death wish."

Sudden sense of calm

A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

 

Suicide Warning Signs

Talking about suicide - Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as "I wish I hadn't been born," "If I see you again...," and "I'd be better off dead."

Seeking out lethal means - Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Preoccupation with death - Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.

No hope for the future - Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped ("There's no way out"). Belief that things will never get better or change.

Self-loathing, self-hatred - Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden ("Everyone would be better off without me").

Getting affairs in order - Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.

Saying goodbye - Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again.

Withdrawing from others - Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.

Self-destructive behavior - Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a "death wish."

Sudden sense of calm - A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.


Suicide prevention tip #1: Speak up if you’re worried

If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you’re wrong? What if the person gets angry? In such situations, it's natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help—the sooner the better.

Talking to a person about suicide

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can't make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

Ways to start a conversation about suicide:

Questions you can ask:

What you can say that helps:

When talking to a suicidal person

Do:

But don’t:

Adapted from: Metanoia.org


Suicide prevention tip #2: Respond quickly in a crisis

If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it's important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.

Level of Suicide Risk

Low — Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won't commit suicide.

Moderate — Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn't very lethal. Says he or she won't commit suicide.

High — Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she won't commit suicide.

Severe — Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will commit suicide.

The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:

If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.

Level of Suicide Risk

Low — Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won't commit suicide.

Moderate — Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn't very lethal. Says he or she won't commit suicide.

High — Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she won't commit suicide.

Severe — Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will commit suicide.

Suicide prevention tip #3: Offer help and support

If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don't take responsibility, however, for making your loved one well. You can offer support, but you can't get better for a suicidal person. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.

It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you're helping a suicidal person, don't forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor—to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.

Helping a suicidal person:

Risk factors for suicide

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least 90 percent of all people who commit suicide suffer from one or more mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or alcoholism. Depression in particular plays a large role in suicide. The difficulty suicidal people have imagining a solution to their suffering is due in part to the distorted thinking caused by depression.

Antidepressants and Suicide

For some, depression medication causes an increase—rather than a decrease—in depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Because of this risk, the FDA advises that anyone on antidepressants should be watched for increases in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Monitoring is especially important if this is the person's first time on depression medication or if the dose has recently been changed. The risk of suicide is the greatest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment.

Common suicide risk factors include:

Antidepressants and Suicide

For some, depression medication causes an increase—rather than a decrease—in depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Because of this risk, the FDA advises that anyone on antidepressants should be watched for increases in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Monitoring is especially important if this is the person's first time on depression medication or if the dose has recently been changed. The risk of suicide is the greatest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment.

Suicide in teens and older adults

In addition to the general risk factors for suicide, both teenagers and older adults are at a higher risk of suicide.

Suicide in Teens

Teenage suicide is a serious and growing problem. The teenage years can be emotionally turbulent and stressful. Teenagers face pressures to succeed and fit in. They may struggle with self-esteem issues, self-doubt, and feelings of alienation. For some, this leads to suicide. Depression is also a major risk factor for teen suicide.

Other risk factors for teenage suicide include:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Recent traumatic event
  • Lack of a support network
  • Availability of a gun
  • Hostile social or school environment
  • Exposure to other teen suicides

Suicide warning signs in teens

Additional warning signs that a teen may be considering suicide:

Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Suicide in the Elderly

The highest suicide rates of any age group occur among persons aged 65 years and older. One contributing factor is depression in the elderly that is undiagnosed and untreated.

Other risk factors for suicide in the elderly include:

  • Recent death of a loved one
  • Physical illness, disability, or pain
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Major life changes, such as retirement
  • Loss of independence
  • Loss of sense of purpose

Suicide warning signs in older adults

Additional warning signs that an elderly person may be contemplating suicide:

Rush to complete or revise a will