Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans, and specifically the second leading cause of death in those age 15-34. Many more individuals survive suicide attempts and battle suicidal thoughts than those who actually die. It is an uncomfortable and difficult topic to talk about, especially if you are concerned that a loved one may attempt to take his or her own life. However, it is important to understand the facts surrounding suicide and the goals for prevention so that we can stop these tragic events.
Facts of Suicide:
- The suicide rate has been increasing over the last decade and currently approximately 105 Americans die each day from taking their life (CDC).
- 20-25 percent of Americans over the age of 18 are affected by depression, and only half of these individuals receive treatment (CDC).
- For every one suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts in this country. That statistic increases dramatically in the elderly to four attempts for each actual suicide death (CDC).
- Though females are more likely than males to have suicidal thoughts, males are more likely to act on them. Almost 80 percent of all suicides are males. (CDC).
- Firearm deaths are the most common method of suicide for males, while intentional overdose is the most common method for females (CDC).
Who Is At Risk For Suicide?
Anyone can be affected by suicide, but there are some risk factors that place an individual at a higher possibility of attempting suicide (SAMHSA).
- Depression or other mental illness
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Feelings of hopelessness and loneliness
- Extreme anger or aggression
- History of trauma or abuse – physical, emotional, or sexual
- Major physical illness or injury
- Previous suicide attempt
- Loss of relationship, job, finances, etc.
- Lack of social support
- Lack of mental health care
While many individuals may have risk factors for suicide, it doesn’t actually mean they are feeling suicidal. There are warning signs that may indicate a person is actively feeling suicidal and may need immediate assistance or intervention (SPRC).
Warning Signs of Suicide:
- Withdrawn from friends and family, isolation from social activities.
- Always talking about death, maybe even specifically suicide, or using phrases such as, “It would be better if I wasn’t around.”
- Deep sadness and increased trouble with sleeping or eating.
- Increase in risky behavior such as driving too fast or recklessly.
- Putting their affairs in order and saying goodbye to friends or family.
- Increase in alcohol or substance use.
- Attempting to buy a gun, pills, or other possible tools used to follow through with suicide.
The goal in helping suicidal individuals is to help them find hope, purpose and meaning in their lives. It is important to preserve their dignity, connect them to peers (for example, other veterans, or other widowers, etc.) who may be able to uniquely identify with their pain, and engage the support of family and friends. Spiritual support, positive thinking and affirmations, exercise and hobbies may also be helpful techniques in coping with suicidal thoughts. Most importantly, they need assistance from mental health professionals who can create a personalized plan of care.
Those experiencing warning signs of suicide should seek immediate assistance. Take action and call 1-800-273-TALK, or any other crisis hotline. If there is already a mental health counselor in place, they should be contacted urgently. If needed, 911 can be contacted to allow emergency personnel to intervene and prevent death. Assistance will then be provided to help that individual with follow up.
Vet Center Combat Call Center (for Veterans in crisis): 1-877-WAR-VETS
Stop A Suicide Today – great resource for suicidal individuals or loved ones
Kristen Hullum, MSN, RN
Trauma Injury Prevention Coordinator
St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center