Updated: Oct 23
In honor of Suicide Prevention Month 2021, here are some statistics and tips on helping anyone that you know who may be experiencing suicidal ideation. I want to do anything I can to help raise awareness and help others so that we don't lose more loved ones to suicide.
Have you or someone you know been effected by suicide? Unfortunately, many of us have. Our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and our children are all effected by suicide. My daughter's freshman year of high school, two of her classmates committed suicide. She said, no one knew that they were suicidal, which is frequently the case.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "Suicide is a Leading Cause of Death in the United States
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Reports, in 2019:
Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 47,500 people.
Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44.
There were nearly two and a half times as many suicides (47,511) in the United States as there were homicides (19,141)."
Reading these statistics can be concerning, especially knowing that children as young as 10 years of age have committed suicide here in the United States.
Suicide Risk in Children and Teens.
As with my daughter's high school friends, there are younger and younger children now at risk of suicide. You may have also seen the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" which talks about suicide in young people. Young people are quite reactive, and they may take action towards suicide without taking time to think through all of the consequences.
According to Healthy Children, some of the risk factors include:
"Previous suicide attempts
Other psychiatric illness
Use of alcohol and other substances
Local epidemics of suicides
Easy access to guns or other lethal methods
Bullying and cyberbullying."
Suicide Risk in Adults
There are many risk factors for suicide, according to the CDC:
Previous suicide attempt
Mental illness, such as depression
Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
Job problems or loss
Substance use disorder
Adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse and neglect
Family history of suicide
Relationship problems such as a break-up, violence, or loss
Barriers to health care
Cultural and religious beliefs such as a belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal problem
Suicide cluster in the community
Stigma associated with mental illness or help-seeking
Easy access to lethal means among people at risk (e.g. firearms, medications)
Unsafe media portrayals of suicide"
Many of these risk factors can make someone feel hopeless and trapped, like they are in a bad situation that will never change. Any of these risk factors alone may not mean that someone will commit suicide, however it is good to reach out to anyone you know experiencing any of these situations and offer support if you are able. Having a good support system is often a protective factor against suicide.
Although people do commit suicide for different reasons, such as untreated depression or substance abuse, there are some warning signs that are common to many people who have thought about suicide.
According to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), "The warning signs of suicide are indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help.
Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself;
Looking for a way to kill oneself;
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;
Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain;
Talking about being a burden to others;
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;
Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;
Sleeping too little or too much;
Withdrawing or feeling isolated;
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and
Displaying extreme mood swings."
If you notice any of these signs in someone that you know, you may want to talk to them using the five step method below.
5 Steps to Suicide Prevention.
According to the Suicide Prevention Month website, there are five steps to helping someone you think might be at risk of suicide:
"Ask. Asking the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way.
Be there. This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone when you can, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person – do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish.
Keep them safe. First of all, it’s good for everyone to be on the same page. After the “Ask” step, and you’ve determined suicide is indeed being talked about, it’s important to find out a few things to establish immediate safety. Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a specific, detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access do they have to their planned method?
Help them connect. Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports (like the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Additional components of a safety net might be connecting them with supports and resources in their communities.
Follow Up. After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call."
Being an Ally.
Showing that you are a good person to talk to, in general, can help someone open up to you if they are struggling. If people, especially kids, know that you are a mental health ally that could also make a difference.
Since there is a stigma in society against mental health issues and suicidal feelings, speaking up in a positive and supportive manner can be helpful. It can be posting on social media. Or, if someone says something negative about mental illness, to contradict the statement gently in conversation. This will let people know that you are supportive and kind toward those with a mental illness.
Many people who are wanting to commit suicide feel like they are struggling alone with unimaginable pain. Sometimes, they will commit suicide as a way to make their pain stop. This can be the case with mental illness such as depression, or with a physical illness like cancer.
As with the case of bullying, helping a child to feel like they have an ally against bullying can make a difference. Especially if your child or your child's friend is being bullied, you can offer your help in getting the bullying to stop. There are many helpful anti-bullying programs in schools as well.
I have always made a point to let my daughter know that if she is struggling with anything, she can talk to me. Or, if she doesn't feel comfortable talking to me, to talk to another trusted adult like a teacher, school counselor, or family member. Letting kids know that there are trusted adults in their lives can be a huge protective factor towards mental health issues.
The Value of Kindness.
People of all ages, and from all walks of life consider suicide for many different reasons. Often, no one in their lives know that they are going to commit suicide, until after it happens. Then, they are left struggling to pick up the pieces.
Since we may not know if someone is struggling at any given time, it is so important to be kind to everyone that we come in contact with on a daily basis. Hug all your loved ones a little tighter, tell your friends why you appreciate them, smile at strangers on the street. Who knows, but even a small amount of kindness can go a long way to someone who is struggling.
Check out these videos about suicide prevention.
If you, or someone you know, is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255