As the 11th leading cause of death in the US, it has been estimated that a suicide occurs approximately once every 12.3 minutes. In addition, for each person that commits suicide, it’s estimated that on average 6 people are affected by that occurrence. Suicide also has what is known as the “contagion effect.” This is often noticed when someone who may be well-known commits suicide and the effect of their loss has a large impact within their social environment and the larger world. However, suicide can be prevented through education, understanding warning signs and risk factors, and learning how to ask the necessary questions to better understand when someone is considering suicide and how to get them help.
MYTH: Men don’t attempt or commit suicide.
FACT:Anyone is capable of attempting or committing suicide. Women are four times more likely to attempt suicide than men, but men are almost four times more likely to commit suicide than women. You would be surprised to know that rates of suicide among African American men, particularly between the ages of 18-25, have increased almost 200% in the last 10 years.
MYTH:If someone has thoughts of suicide once, they will always have those thoughts.
FACT:Suicidal thoughts are a result of a sense of hopelessness. With hope and help, you will not always feel this way. If someone experiences thoughts of suicide and is able to get help, they are likely to not consider suicide again.
Signs & Symptoms
Hopelessness is one of the key predictors of suicidality. A sense of hopelessness indicates that a person is unable to see past this particular point and feels that they no longer have options.
Untreated depressive symptoms:
Depressed mood, lack of motivation, low self-esteem, decreased pleasure in once enjoyable activities, and feelings of irrelevance are all symptoms of depression.
Increased alcohol and/or substance use:
An increase in the use of substances suggests that someone is having increased difficulty in coping with their current challenges and experiences.
Increased isolation and/or withdrawal:
An individual may begin to pull back from friends and/or loved ones. This increase in isolation will often contribute to the perception and sense of hopelessness.
Increase in impulsive behaviors:
Feeling and behaving as if there is “nothing to lose” may be an indicator of suicidal ideation.
Don’t be afraid to ask the question:
If you are concerned that someone may be considering suicide, it is okay to ask the question directly. If you aren’t comfortable asking the question, share your concerns with someone who may be more comfortable with asking it. Asking the question will often bring relief to someone who may be considering suicide and open up communication. The goal is to encourage hope, which helps prevent suicide.
Take the time to listen more than talk. Make sure that when you ask the question, you have the time to sit and listen non-judgmentally. Express your concerns and convey realistic hope that the problem can be solved, with the goal of encouraging them to seek support.
Don’t keep it a secret:
If someone shares with you that they are considering suicide, share it with someone who can get them help or get them to help. Suicide prevention is a community concern. Education, involvement, and the act of caring can instill hope and help to decrease suicidal thoughts and behaviors.