Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 9.3 million adults have had suicidal thoughts. Suicide can often be prevented by knowing the warning signs and where to seek treatment. The definition of suicide is the act of intentionally taking one’s own life.
What are the Warning Signs and Risk Factors?
Suicidal thoughts and actions are often caused by an undiagnosed mental illness and are a sign of extreme distress. Suicide is not a normal response to stress and is not attention-seeking. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately.
Suicide affects every race, gender, and background. The main risk factors for suicide are:
- Depression, anxiety, and substance use disorder
- Medical conditions
- Chronic pain
- Prior suicide attempts
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Family history of suicide
Suicide rates are also the highest among groups who experience discrimination, such as the LGBTI community, refugees, migrants, and prisoners. It is important to understand that many people who have these risk factors do not ever attempt suicide. Understanding the warning signs of suicide is often the first step to getting help.
Below are just some of the signs that someone may be thinking about suicide:
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
- Feeling empty, hopeless, or feeling like there is no reason to live
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Planning or looking for ways to kill themselves
- Giving away important possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Talking or thinking about death often
Treatment for Suicidal Thoughts
There are two types of psychotherapies to help individuals who attempted suicide or that have suicidal thoughts:
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)-This form of psychotherapy is a popular way to reduce suicidal thoughts in adolescents. This therapy has also been shown to reduce suicide rates in adults with Borderline Personality Disorder.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)– CBT helps individuals recognize negative thought patterns when they arise.
Medication is often paired with therapy treatments. Patients may work closely with their health care provider to find medication combinations and doses that work best for their treatment.
How Can I Help Someone who is Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts?
If you feel like a loved one is thinking about suicide, it is important to talk to them about it. Talking about suicide will help you determine the best steps to help them. The first step is to ask them if they have a plan or are thinking about ending their life soon. If a person has a plan to end their life soon, this is considered an emergency. Call for help immediately and do not leave the person alone.
If the person does not have a plan to end their life but it is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can start by listening to them and providing extra support. Often, many people feel like they are alone when they are experiencing painful emotions. Do not judge the person for how they are feeling and show that you understand that they are having a serious problem.
Do not tell them to “cheer up” or “get over it.” Instead, say things like “I don’t want you to die.” Or “You are important to me.” Offer to help them find a solution to their problems. Provide them with a number to the crisis hotline, 1-800-SUICIDE. The trained professionals on this hotline are available to help 24/7. Remember that if you think someone’s life is in immediate danger, call 911 immediately.
Because there is a stigma surrounding suicide, many people who are thinking about suicide do not seek help. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevention of suicide has not been addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major health issue. Raising awareness and educating people on the topic is an important part of suicide prevention.
Some ways to prevent suicide are:
- School-based interventions
- Increase access to mental health treatment
- Provide follow up care for suicide attempts
- Early care and intervention for people with mental and substance use disorders, emotional distress, and chronic pain
Harmony Bay Wellness
It is important to seek mental health treatment if you are feeling overwhelmed or distressed. Harmony Bay Wellness in South Jersey offers treatment from a licensed professional for a wide range of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD. To learn more about the services provided at Harmony Bay, call us today at 855.765.6399.
If you need help right away, contact 1-800-SUICIDE.
If you think someone’s life is in danger, call 911 immediately.
Preventing Suicide. 2019, www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/fastfact.html.
World Health Organization: WHO. “Suicide: One Person Dies Every 40 Seconds.” Who.Int, World Health Organization: WHO, 9 Sept. 2019, www.who.int/news-room/detail/09-09-2019-suicide-one-person-dies-every-40-seconds.