The underlying commonality among individuals who kill themselves is the belief that suicide is the ONLY solution to their unbearable situation. Over time in the majority of instances, the events in question will pass, their impact can be mitigated, or their overwhelming nature will gradually diminish. This often depends on the suicidal person making good choices for themselves at a time when they are feeling at their worst. This can be extremely difficulty to do.
Suicide: Know the Signs
People can usually deal with isolated stressful events well, but when there is an accumulation of these events over a long time period, the normal coping strategies are often pushed to the limit. Frequently, people will give off warning signs that they are in need of help with the hope that someone will step in to rescue them. Other people may show no signs at all and others may show the signs and seem to be coping well. The only way to know for sure is to ask. Some of these warning signs are:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Loss of interest in usually activities
- Extreme hopelessness
- Changes in appetite and sleep
- Talking, writing or hinting about suicide
- Purposefully putting personal affairs in order
- A sudden change from extreme depression to being ‘at peace’ (may indicate they have made their decision to kill themselves
People are often afraid to talk to others about suicide since death is a taboo topic in western society. This phenomenon often leads to further isolation and increases the problem. Many people believe that talking about suicide may give someone the idea to do it. This is simply not true. You don’t give a person morbid thoughts by talking about suicide. People often feel better by honestly expressing their distress. Asking them directly, "Are you thinking of suicide?" gives them the permission to share their true feelings. Above all, suicidal people, like everyone, need love, understanding and care.
Many also believe that if people are determined to kill themselves, nothing will stop them. The truth is most suicidal people do not want death, rather, they want the pain to stop. There is often great ambivalence about carrying through on the decision to end it all.
Facts About Suicide
- 79% of all firearm suicides are committed by white men.
- Suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death among young people 15 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries and homicide.
- Research indicates that there are certain familial factors that are associated with suicide:
- Family history of mental or substance abuse disorder
- Family history of suicide
- Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
- There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every completion; this ratio is higher in women and youth and lower in men and the elderly
- More women than men report a history of attempted suicide, with a gender ration of about 2:1
- The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in adults are depression, alcohol abuse, cocaine abuse, and separation/divorce.
- The majority of suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress and not just manipulative attempts to get attention.
- More people die from suicide than from homicide in the United States
What do you do if someone you know becomes suicidal
[Note: This article is to serve only as a general guideline. It is intended to be informative rather than authoritative.]
- Try to remain calm. In most instances there is no rush. Focus on listening and understanding.
- Ask about the person’s thoughts. Contrary to popular belief, asking about suicide doesn’t put ideas into people’s head. Ask about the plan, method and means – are they lethal? Available?
- Encourage problem solving and positive actions. Encourage them to refrain from making any serious, irreversible decisions while in a crisis.
- Listen with respect. Suicidal people very often need understanding and care. Tell them, "I don’t want you to die." Develop a no-suicide contract and safety plan.
- Take charge. Don’t worry about invading their privacy. Don’t leave it up to them to get help. If the crisis is acute, treat it as an emergency – call 911 or take the person to an emergency room. You would intervene if someone were having a heart attack – a suicidal impulse can be just as deadly.
- Get assistance. Avoid trying to be the sole lifeline for the person. Seek out resources even if it means breaking a confidence.
- Know that you can only do so much to try to prevent someone from committing suicide. Ultimately, they will make their own choice.
- If the danger is imminent DO NOT LEAVE THE PERSON ALONE.
For information on suicide risk and prevention call: 303.458.3507
- ULifeline website
- Carlson, Trudy Suicide Survivors Handbook.
- Ellis, T. A. & Newman, C. F. Choosing to Live.
- Hewitt, John After Suicide.
- Parkin, Rebecca Child Survivors of Suicide: A Guidebook for Those Who Care for Them.
- Quinnett, Paul G. Suicide: The Forever Decision – For Those Thinking About Suicide, and For Those Who Know, Love or Counsel Them.
- Wrobleski, Adina Suicide: Why?
- Wrobleski, Adina Suicide: Survivors – A Guide for Those Left Behind.