Recognize the Warning Signs of Suicide
In the aftermath of suicide, many people often ask the same questions: “Why did this happen? What could we have done?” The truth is no easy answer exists for either. The decisions that drive someone to take their own life can vary from person to person. The reasons are almost always complicated and difficult to understand for those left behind.
While suicidal tendencies can come in many forms, they also share some similar characteristics. To prevent suicide, understand what these characteristics are and look for these behaviors from your loved ones.
Statistics on suicide
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States with 45,979 deaths in 2020 — roughly one death every 11 minutes. Furthermore, the CDC reports an estimated 12.2 million Americans seriously thought about suicide in 2020 while 3.2 million people planned a suicide and 1.2 million attempted suicides. Perhaps what’s more troubling is the prevalence of suicide in youth. The CDC reports suicide as the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with suicidal thoughts may show any of the following warning signs:
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or feeling like there are no other solutions
- Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Giving away important possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Putting affairs in order (e.g., making a will)
- Taking risks that could be fatal (e.g., driving extremely fast or recklessly)
- Talking or thinking about death
- Extreme mood swings
- Planning or looking for ways to kill themselves (e.g., searching methods online, stockpiling pills or drugs, or buying a gun)
- Talking about feeling guilt or shame
- Using alcohol or drugs more frequently
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Changing eating or sleeping habits
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
How to help
If you suspect someone you love may be thinking of suicide, the NIMH recommends taking the following actions:
- Ask if they want to kill themself. While this is undoubtedly a difficult question, sometimes a direct approach is the appropriate course of action. In fact, studies show this direct line of questioning does not increase suicides or suicidal tendencies.
- Keep them safe. If someone you love is suicidal, reduce their access to potentially harmful items such as prescription medication, drugs, alcohol, or weapons.
- Be there for them. Sometimes, all a person needs is someone to hear them and be there for them. If someone you love is suicidal, listen to what they’re saying and feeling. Studies show just acknowledging the person and talking to them about suicide may even reduce suicidal thoughts.
- Help them connect. If someone you love is suicidal, connect them with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or the Crisis Text Line (text 741741). Keep these numbers saved on your phone. Also consider connecting them with another trusted friend or family member, spiritual advisor or pastor, or mental health professional.
- Stay connected. You’re still needed after the crisis is over. Stay in touch with the person in the aftermath of the crisis and check in on them. Studies show the number of suicide deaths decreases when someone follows up.
You don’t have to face a crisis alone — we’re here for you. Schedule an appointment with Cathy Rigg, LCSW and the Therapy and Counseling Services at the Elmer Hugh Taylor Clinic. Call 217-323-2245 today.