Recent local events have again prompted some of us to ask many questions regarding suicide including: Why would someone take their life? What would make someone feel so hopeless? Are there not signs someone could see? What could have been done to help them?
The suicides in just our community of late underscore the alarming prevalence of the tragedy nationwide and our need for awareness. Studies show 8.3 million adults in the U.S. had serious thoughts of committing suicide in the past year and 1.1 million adults actually attempted suicide. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24 and one in 11 high school students made a suicide attempt in the past 12 months.
The following is in no way comprehensive, but will hopefully give some insight into suicide and provide additional sources of information.
Data regarding mental illnesses as risk factors indicate that depression, manic depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, eating disorders, and severe anxiety increase the probability of suicide attempts and completions. Nine out of 10 people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental-health problem and up to three out of four individuals who take their own life had a physical illness when they committed suicide.
A person in acute risk for suicidal behavior most often will show signs of:
• Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and/or,
• Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
• Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.
These might be remembered as expressed or communicated ideation. If observed, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral, or call 911.
Additional Warning Signs:
• Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
• No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
• Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
• Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
• Withdrawal from friends, family and society
• Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
• Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
• Dramatic mood changes.
Talk therapy that focuses on helping the person understand how their thoughts and behaviors affect each other (cognitive behavioral therapy) has been found to be an effective treatment for many people who struggle with thoughts of harming themselves. The effectiveness of medication treatment for depression is supported by research, particularly when medication is combined with psychotherapy.
There are many effective ways to become educated regarding suicide and to find help for both the suicidal person and those affected by it.
A personal note:
Helpless, hopeless and worthless are 3 words frequently used to describe the feelings of those who are suicidal. Suffering and pain are a reality in our world today and often lead to these feelings. I believe life, in and of itself, is valuable because life comes from God. To live is to be valued, because life is divinely inspired and created by God. It is my goal and privilege to help those who have lost hope or are experiencing pain in their life. If our counselors can help, please give us a call.
Mike Dawson M.A. LPC-Intern
Stonebriar Counseling Associates
Building Hope for Today
American Association of Suicidology
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Community Awareness and Support Center (support for people affected by murder-suicide)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center
Suicide and Crisis Center of Dallas