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Understanding Suicide – and What You Can Do to Prevent It

Dan Brian   |  September 1, 2015   |  

When an individual commits suicide, it has a devastating impact on the family and friends left behind. Following a suicide, those close to the individual who took his or her own life are often left wondering why they didn’t see the signs earlier, what they could have done differently, and if some action could have been taken to prevent a valuable life from being lost unnecessarily.

The reasons an individual may consider suicide can be quite complex. To some people, suicide may be entirely unthinkable, but to others it can appear as the only way to escape their life and the pain, loneliness, sadness, guilt, depression, helplessness, rejection or abuse they currently face. It is for this reason people must be able to recognize the potential warning signs and symptoms that go along with suicidal behavior and know what to do if a family member or friend is exhibiting suicidal tendencies.

Suicide Statistics

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists suicide as one of the leading causes of death in 2013 among adults between 25 and 64 years of age, as well as children and youth between the ages of 10 and 24. In total, 41,149 people reportedly committed suicide in 2013, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. More people died as a result of committing suicide that year from homicides.

While the rate of suicide saw a decline between 1990 and 2000, the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) reports that over the last decade, the suicide rate has increased to 12.1 per every 100,000 population. This breaks down to 105 suicides per day and one suicide every 13 minutes, a truly staggering and heartbreaking statistic. Further statistics indicate:

  • For every one suicide, another 25 suicides are attempted
  • Females are more likely to experience thoughts of suicide, but males are four times more inclined to commit suicide
  • Each year, one out of every 100,000 children between 10 and 14 years of age dies as a result of committing suicide
  • Seven out of every 100,000 youth between 15 and 19 years of age dies by suicide per year

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Suicidal Behavior

For any individual to have a chance of being able to prevent a suicide and obtain treatment for an individual exhibiting signs of suicidal behavior, it is first necessary to recognize the potential warning signs and symptoms. The following are some of the signs and symptoms which could indicate an individual is a suicide risk:

  • Preoccupation with death, dying, wanting to die or wanting to kill oneself
  • Doing research on ways to kill oneself
  • Voicing feelings of hopelessness
  • Talking about having no reason to live
  • Continuous talk about feeling trapped or not wanting to be a burden to others
  • Talking about being in unbearable pain and wanting to end it once and for all
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Extremely reckless behavior or disregard for one’s own life
  • Getting too little sleep or spending too much time sleeping
  • Acting withdrawn or talking about feeling isolated and alone
  • Heightened or exaggerated mood swings
  • Sudden desire to say one’s good-byes
  • Giving away valued possessions and getting one’s affairs in order

What to Do If You Believe a Family Member or Friend is Exhibiting Suicidal Tendencies

If you believe a family member or friend is exhibiting suicidal tendencies, it is important you let that person know he or she is not alone. Rather than trying to argue with a person who is communicating or obsessed with the idea physical harm, let the person know how much you care. Those who are exhibiting suicidal tendencies also need to know help is available.

Never keep any communication about suicide a secret, even if a loved one begs you to remain silent.

People should not feel ashamed about needing or seeking help, yet some may believe they have to deal with their problems on their own. Speak up. Let them know that is not true, and that help was available. No matter how difficult their life may currently appear, or how impossible is may seem to overcome obstacles, they have you on their side. You want to help and do what you can to get them the necessary assistance. In situations such as these, honesty, perseverance and compassion are key factors in the preservation of life.