What is suicide?
What is the connection between depression and suicide?
What risk factors are associated with suicide?
What are some of the warning signs for suicide?
What might a suicidal person say or communicate?
What should I do if I think a friend or family member is in danger?
Where do I find help?
Prevention and the Importance of Awareness?
What is suicide? Back to top
- Suicide is when a person ends their life and is by definition fatal. Suicide is not a choice- best stated it is an overwhelming urge to end one’s intense psychological pain. Many suicidal people desperately want to live, but are unable to see alternatives to their problems.
- Worldwide there are more deaths due to suicide than to accidents, homicides, and war combined.
- Hard to collect data on deaths by suicide as many appear to be an accident or are improperly reported on death certificate.
- It is estimated that there are 8 attempts per death by suicide.
- Teenage suicide rates have risen 200% since 1960. In the last two decades, among young people aged 10-14 years, the rates have doubled.
What is the connection between depression and suicide? Back to top
- Major depression is the most commonly associated psychiatric diagnosis with suicide.
- 66% or 2 out of 3 people who die by suicide were depressed at the time. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75% with depressed individuals dependent on alcohol having a higher risk for suicide. 90% of all suicides are by individuals with a mental illness.
- Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately die by suicide.
- Those with major depression are at a 20 times higher risk for suicide than the general population.
- Depressed individuals who have had more than one episode of depression are at highest risk compared to those who only experienced one episode of depression.
- Early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric illnesses appears to be the best way to prevent suicide.
What risk factors are associated with suicide? Back to top
- Sex: men are four times more likely than women to die from suicide, although three times more women than men report attempting suicide.
- Prior attempts: a person who has one or more prior suicide attempts is at a higher risk.
- Neurotransmitters- research indicates both depression and suicidal behavior is linked with decreased serotonin in the brain.
- Psychiatric Disorders: at least 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illness.
- Family History: there is an increased risk for suicidal behavior in individuals with a family history of major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and certain personality disorders.
- Substance Abuse: drugs and alcohol are involved in approximately 60% of suicides.
- Distressing Life Events: examples may include loss of a loved one, career failure, rejection, and abuse.
- Psychic Pain or Inner Tension: this may include anxiety, guilt, perceived burdensomeness, feelings of not belonging and hopeless that things will not improve.
- Impulsivity: impulsive individuals are more apt to act on suicidal urges.
What are some of the warning signs for suicide? Back to top
Research shows that about 4 out of 5 people who attempt suicide exhibit clear warning signs, most for over a year before their deaths. Unfortunately, these signs are often not recognized or are misunderstood by those around them. Below are some warning signs to look for:
- Dramatic mood swings
- Withdrawing or isolating oneself from family, friends or activities
- Boredom or disinterest in most around them
- Sudden switch from being very sad to calm or appearing happy
- Talking or thinking about death
- “Death wish” or acting reckless or engaging in high risk activities
- Comments on hopelessness or worthlessness
- Feelings of being trapped or that “there is no way out”
- Perceived burdensomeness or that others are better off without them
- Making arrangements like giving favorite possessions away
What might a suicidal person say or communicate? Back to top
- “ All of my problems will end soon ”
- “ No one can do anything to help me now ”
- “ I just can’t take it anymore ”
- “ I wish I were dead ”
- “ Everyone will be better off without me ”
- “ I can’t do anything right ”
- “ Nothing is going to change or get better ”
- “ What’s the point? ”
- “ I hate my life ”
- “ I can’t think straight ”
- “ My mind keeps spinning thinking of all the bad things that have happened ”
- “ I just want to go to sleep and not wake up ”
- “ No one cares ”
*If you see any of the above warning signs and/or feel concerned that someone may be considering suicide ask if they have a plan. Having a plan is often the final step before one attempts suicide. If they have a plan, do not leave them alone and seek help.
What should I do if I think a friend or family member is in danger? Back to top
- Show that you care
- Listen and express concern in a non-judgmental way
- Don’ t be confrontational, but do ask directly if they are considering suicide
- Always take talk of suicide seriously
- Do NOT try to handle it yourself.
- Take action! Even if you are only slightly worried, get help. Talk to a trusted adult, parent, or counselor. There are also hotlines like those listed below where you may gain help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Don’t keep it a secret. This type of secret could cost a life. Yes, your friend might become mad at you, but a mad friend is better than a dead one. Death is permanent. Hopefully, they’ll realize you spoke up because you care and they matter.
*It is important to show that you care. Talk about it and get help!
Where do I find help? Back to top
There are many resources available to help you or a friend, including parents, other adult family members, counselors, teachers, coaches, medical professionals, clergy or a local mental health agency.
Hotlines can provide help anytime- 24 hours, 7 days a week!
- Naitonal Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255)
- Psychiatric Emergency Response Network 1-866- FOR-PERN (367-7376)
- Kristen Brooks Hope Center- National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
Get professional help immediately.
- To find mental health resources in your area, click here.
- For information on finding a psychologist in your area, click here.
- For information on finding a psychiatrist in your area, click here.
- To find help on your college campus, click here.
You may also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK to speak with a trained professional and get connected to a mental health provider in your area. It's available nationwide 24 hours a day.
The Trevor Project also offers a 24-hour toll-free confidential crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Call 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386).
* In case of emergency, please dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Suicide Myths Back to top
- If they threaten it they will not do it. (Always take talk of suicide seriously.)
- They are just looking for attention or sympathy. (No matter what the motive, always take warning signs seriously.)
- Talking about it will make them do it. (Acknowledging their feelings might make them feel less alone.)
- Only crazy people attempt suicide. (Suicidal people are not psychotic or insane, but likely feel overwhelmed by depression, hopeless, distressed or in deep emotional or physical pain.)
- No one I know would attempt suicide. (Suicide crosses all cultural, financial, racial, social, and ethnic boundaries.)
- If a person wants to kill themselves, nothing can stop them. (Even the most severely depressed person has mixed thoughts about dying.)
Prevention and the Importance of Awareness Back to top
In order to prevent suicide, we must first begin my overcoming our reluctance to talk about it.
People are more likely to seek help if social acceptance is broadened and they receive support and services early on.
Education reduces stigmas, thereby increasing our understanding and compassion towards those who suffer from depression or any type of mental illness.
Suicide is a preventable public health problem, suicide prevention research and education is essential to saving lives.
Recognizing risk factors makes prevention possible. Most communicate their intent or demonstrate warning signs prior to suicide. Most of these signs are missed or largely misunderstood by others.
Even if a person is not considering suicide, the presence of warning signs may indicate that they may be suffering from depression and should seek further evaluation from a mental health professional.
Learn More About Mental Health >>
Learn More About Depression >>