Suicide has become the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and second-highest cause for people between the ages of 10 and 34. The rate of suicide attempts has increased every year since 2006. It happens in all communities, across all ages, races, faiths, and economic groups.
And it’s preventable. On the one hand, it’s sad to consider that most of those deaths by suicide could have been prevented. On the other, it’s a reminder that we can take actions to keep the people around us from viewing suicide as a solution. It starts when we educate ourselves about the realities of suicide.
While mental illnesses such as depression and substance abuse problems are major contributing factors to suicide, they’re not the only ones. Among the other risk factors are a family history of suicide, chronic pain or illness, a history of trauma or being abused, having easy access to lethal means of death such as guns, and having suffered a significant loss such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or serious financial problems.
People who are seriously considering suicide frequently display warning signs. For example, they may begin to talk or write about death and suicide. They’ll make offhand remarks to the effect that the world or others’ lives would be better if they were dead, or that there’s no reason for them to live. They may make comments about being hopeless or worthless, or they might withdraw from friends and familiar activities. Sometimes they’ll suddenly begin to engage in reckless or risky behaviors, or they may increase abuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs.
When we notice changes in behavior like these, we may become uncomfortable, but staying silent doesn’t help. We need to make a point of reaching out and asking questions about their well-being. It’s good to ask people if they’re feeling okay and if they’re thinking about harming themselves. We can suggest they obtain help and direct them to sources for that help (we’ve included several sources at the end of this article).
As a therapist, one of my roles is to help people who are considering suicide look over their lives and see the many reasons to keep living. When people are overwhelmed by the bad feelings, they may stop noticing the good things in their lives and the people with whom they have connections. Usually, people contemplate suicide because of a problem or situation that isn’t permanent, so reminding them that better times are ahead can help them look past today. For some people, teaching them God has a purpose for them and helping them identify that purpose can also be beneficial.
If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) or text to 741-741, and you’ll be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor. And if you want someone to talk with about your own feelings or how a loved one’s suicide has affected you, please contact us today to set a time to meet with one of our professional counselors.
Bill Overpeck is one of Care to Change’s licensed therapists. He provides marriage and family therapy, counsels troubled children and teens, and works with those who have depression and anxiety. If you’d like to schedule a suicide prevention training, please contact us.