Everyday, people are suffering with suicidal thoughts. As we gain awareness of the death by suicide of two major public figures like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, we are shocked, and we ask “how can such successful people kill themselves?” The truth is the rate of suicide is quite alarming. Worldwide, suicide is the cause of more deaths than homicide and war combined. On average, one person dies of suicide every 15 minutes. On average there are 123 suicides per day. With these high numbers, I cannot help but wonder why are we so silent about such a huge issue.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention there is not one single cause for suicide. They further explain that suicide most often happen when stressors and health issues meet and lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair. Although there is not one single cause for suicide depression is the mental health condition most associated with the issue. The truth is most people do not truly understand depression and the deep pain associated with resulting in it being undiagnosed and untreated. When you are living with issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues you are at a higher risk for suicide.
There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about suicide. The American Psychological Association reports that commonly people think that if you are suicidal then there is no help for you which is false. The fact is heightened suicide risk is frequently short term and specific to the situation. Although suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent. Someone who has had suicidal thoughts and has made attempts can go on to live a long life. Another common myth is that talking about suicide is a bad idea as it can be misunderstood as encouragement. The truth is, many people who contemplating suicide do not speak openly about it nor do they know who to reach out to due to the stigma associated with it. Actually, if someone is able to openly talk about it without receiving judgment can give an individual other options and it can open the possibility to re-think his or her decision. In addition, it is important to note, that not all people with mental health issues are suicidal and you do not necessarily have a mental illness if you are suicidal.
Many people ask what the warning signs are when someone may be suicidal. One major indicator for suicidality is a sudden change in behaviors and a set of entirely new behaviors. This change of behavior should be of upmost concern if this change is following a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit warning signs, that we just not may not know to look for or identify. These warning signs are often times either what they say or do. According to the American foundation for suicide prevention the warning signs should be differentiated by talk, behavior, and mood.
Talk : If a person talks about
- Harming themselves
- Feeling like he or she has no reason to continue living
- Being a burden to other people
- Feeling that the people would be better off without them
- Experiencing unbearable pain
- Increased substance use
- Searching online for methods of ending their life
- Isolating from loved ones
- Change in sleeping pattern; eating too much or too little
- Saying goodbye to people
- Giving away valuable possessions
- Aggressive behaviors
- Extreme tiredness
- Loss of interest in usual activities
There are also risk factors associated with suicide, which are characteristics or conditions that may increase the chance that a person may try to take her life. In addition to risk factors there are protective factors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control the risk factors are:
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of abuse
- History of mental health especially major depression disorder
- Substance abuse
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Aggressive tendencies
- Local increase of suicide
- Lack of access to mental health services
- Recent loss
- Access to lethal methods
- Being unwilling to seek services because of the stigma of mental health or substance abuse services
- Effective and meaningful clinical care
- Access to mental health services
- Social support, such as connection to friends or family
- Support from mental health and medical services
- Conflict resolution skills
- Compliance with mental health treatment
- Cultural and/or religious beliefs that discourage suicide
The literature suggests that suicide is the public health issue that is preventable. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that there are things we can do to prevent suicide. Therefore, if one of your loved ones has reported that they have suicidal thoughts or intent it is important to take it seriously. Firstly, if you do think a family member or someone you know will hurt him or herself call 911 immediately. In addition :
- Remove means such as guns, knives, or pills
- Calmly ask simple questions such as “are you having thoughts of killing yourself? “Do you have a plan to harm yourself?”
- Offer support without judgement
- Don’t discuss whether suicide is wrong or right
- Ask the person who they feel most supported from
In addition, it is important for all of us to get educated on the topic. Even if you or someone you know is not in an immediate crisis you need to know information and provide support. Ensure that you learn the signs and actively listen for them. Provide positive reinforcement so that the individual does not feel alone. Make sure the person knows that you are there for them. I know that many people who live near by in south Florida ensure to know about Miami counseling services or crisis services in South Florida. Also, know that speaking to counselor may also help prevent a crisis from occurring. An important resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 you can also visit their website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. For more information on local counseling or advocacy services visit our website at rkcaregroup.com.