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Suicide Prevention | What to Look for, How to Help

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When the issue of mental illness appears in daily news, people take notice and resolve to take action. Whether it’s depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders or any other psychological conditions which become highly visible to the American public, it’s a sudden, sober wake-up call. Within a few days, our good intentions become diverted and mental health is replaced by an equally important social issue. While unfortunate, it’s reality.

Fortunately, for those who are dedicated to substance use disorder and mental health disorders, the concern and treatment is never far from the forefront.

Recent events have brought suicide and depression into focus.

Causes of Suicide

Every case of suicide is dramatically different, as are its causes. In most cases, there is no single cause, but rather a constellation of contributing factors that lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. Risk factors do not always mean that suicide will occur. However, several factors can increase a person’s risk of attempting or dying by suicide.

Some of the most common risk factors for suicide include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • A history of depression or other mental illness
  • Drug and alcohol misuse or addiction
  • Family history of suicide, violence, or abuse
  • A history of trauma (such as sexual, physical, or emotional abuse) or PTSD
  • Previous incarceration
  • Presence of firearms or weapons in the home
  • Violent behavior

Of all the factors associated with suicide, only depression is more closely correlated than substance misuse and addiction.

Individuals with a substance use disorder are nearly 6 times as likely to attempt suicide at some point in their life. Among veterans, men with a substance use disorder are more than twice as likely to commit suicide. Women with a substance abuse disorder are 6.5 times as likely to commit suicide.

Know the Warning Signs

Every person who contemplates suicide is dramatically different, as are the warning signs they exhibit. Some exhibit many “classic” warning signs for a long period of time before committing suicide, and some exhibit few warning signs publicly. It is rare that any one person will exhibit the complete range of warning signs. It is also important to note that many who exhibit warning signs never attempt or commit suicide, as signs can also be symptoms of other things, including mental illnesses.

Some of the most common warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Abandoning hobbies or other sources of enjoyment
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Decease in work or academic performance
  • Extreme mood swings

When these warning signs appear, it is important to quickly connect the person to supportive services that can intervene.

How to Help

If you are remotely contemplating suicide, there are people and resources immediately available to help. These are specially trained professionals who are ready to listen, advise, refer and walk you through your seemingly hopeless situation.

You are not a burden, nor is your phone call.

If it is a loved one who is showing any of the warning signs of suicide, there are people to help you, help them.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, especially among young people. It is the tenth leading cause of death, claiming the lives of more than 44,000 people each year.

By calling the phone number above, you may reduce that figure by one.