This week, September 5-11, has been designated as Suicide Prevention Week. It is a topic few people like to discuss but it is an essential conversation we need to have in recognizing and identifying the signs that a friend or loved one may be thinking of suicide and how to help that person before it is too late. Those who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia are especially at risk for having suicidal thoughts and for acting on these thoughts.
Far too many of the questions we get here on My Depression Connection are from members who are either seeking help because they are feeling suicidal or from loved ones who are desperate to know how to prevent their family member or friend from acting upon their suicidal thoughts. It is absolutely gut wrenching to witness such pain and despair which causes a person to think of ending everything in order to get rid of that pain.
If you have ever had thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. This problem is far more common than most people realize. The following statistics and research provided by The American Association of Suicidology show the magnitude of how much work needs to be done in preventing suicide.
• The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) released a press report last fall (2009) about their nationwide study revealing that 8.3 million adults in the U.S. had serious thoughts of committing suicide in the past year, 2.3 million adults made a suicide plan, and 1.1 million adults actually made the attempt to commit suicide.
• Substance abuse greatly increases the risk of suicide. The risk of suicide in alcoholics is 50 to 70 percent higher than the general population.
• It is estimated that 5 million people in the United States are survivors of suicide (those who have lost a loved one to suicide).
• In the United States, more people die by suicide (50% more) each year than by homicide.
• Over 90 percent of suicide victims have a significant psychiatric illness at the time of their death. These are often undiagnosed, untreated, or both.
What are the signs of suicide?
Sometimes it is very difficult to assess the danger level to your loved one’s suicidal thoughts. It is, therefore, best to take any mention of suicide as a serious concern, and get that person some help before the thoughts escalate into action. The American Association of Suicidology has created a mnemonic to remember the warning signs of suicide called “IS PATH WARM?”
S Substance Abuse
M Mood Changes
Here are some additional warning signs of suicide from Suicide.org:
• Exhibiting a change in personality.
• Acting impulsively.
• Losing interest in most activities.
• Experiencing a change in sleeping habits.
• Experiencing a change in eating habits.
• Losing interest in most activities.
• Performing poorly at work or in school.
• Giving away prized possessions.
• Writing a will.
• Feeling excessive guilt or shame.
• Acting recklessly.
Most people who are thinking of suicide will show some of these warning signs or talk about it. But some individuals will not initiate talking about their suicidal thoughts. If you feel that your loved one is very depressed and is at risk for suicidal ideation, it is good to ask openly if they are having any suicidal thoughts. There is a myth that bringing up the topic of suicide and asking the person about any suicidal intentions will give them the idea to do it. The people at Suicide.org believe differently:
Asking people if they are thinking about suicide does not give them the idea for suicide. And it is important to talk about suicide with people who are suicidal because you will learn more about their mindset and intentions, and allow them to diffuse some of the tension that is causing their suicidal feelings.
Such a discussion could save someone’s life.
How can I get help for myself or for a loved one?
If you are feeling suicidal it is essential that you reach out and get help as soon as possible. Talk to someone, whether it is a friend, loved one, or family member. Let them know that you need help to get through this. If you are in immediate danger please call 9-1-1 or get yourself to the nearest emergency room.
National hotlines can also be of great assistance in helping you or your loved one during times of emotional crisis. The service is free, you are able to remain anonymous if you choose, and the lines are open 24-hours a day. I have used them myself and I feel that calling the hotline saved my life. In one of the first posts I wrote for My Depression Connection entitled, “Reaching Out” I describe my experience with calling a suicide hotline and how it helped me.
Here are some hotline numbers if you should ever need them:
- National Suicide Hopeline Phone: 800.784.2433
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone: 800.273.8255
- Adolescent Suicide Hotline Phone: 800-621-4000
- Gay & Lesbian Trevor HelpLine Suicide Prevention Phone: 1-800-850-8078
If you are feeling suicidal do not keep these feelings to yourself. Share your thoughts with someone who can help. I know from my firsthand experience that people who are suicidal don’t really want to die, they just want to end the terrible suffering and pain. Suicide never ends the pain as the pain will continue for each friend, family member, and loved one who is left behind. As hard as it is to believe, there is hope and it is possible to feel better. Please reach out and get help when you need it. We care and we want you to have every chance to feel hope for healing and recovery.
Published On: September 07, 2010