Save a Life: Recognize the Warning Signs of Suicide

May 14, 2024

Feelings of despair and hopelessness are more serious than just a case of feeling down. For people living with a mental illness, these emotions can lead to dire consequences. Suicide is a public health crisis that affects not just the person involved in the act, but their family and friends as well. This Mental Health Awareness Month, learn about some of the risk factors that can lead to suicide and some prevention strategies to help those in crisis.

About Suicide

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, responsible for more than 49,000 deaths in 2022 — that’s equal to one death every 11 minutes. Additionally, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34. Furthermore, in 2022 an estimated 13.2 million American adults contemplated suicide; 3.8 million made a plan and 1.6 million attempted suicide. From 2021 to 2022, the number of suicides increased by 2.7%.

The CDC reports suicide is rarely caused by a singular event, but rather numerous factors compounding over time. Risk factors may include the following:

Conversely, some protective factors may include the following:

Recognize the Warning Signs

In some cases, people contemplating suicide may exhibit one or more drastic changes in their behavior, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Warning signs for those at immediate risk of suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), include the following:

The NIMH adds the following behaviors may also be considered warning signs:

How to Help

Suicidal actions or thoughts are not a normal reaction to stress — the warning signs should never be ignored. If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the above behaviors, seek immediate help by calling the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or 911 for life-threatening situations. The NIMH also outlines a five-step plan to be present for someone contemplating suicide:

  1. ASK — This may be a difficult question, but ask the person directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Studies have shown asking this question head-on does not increase the risk of suicide for at-risk individuals.
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE — Prohibit their access to lethal means of suicide, such as guns and other weapons, drugs and alcohol, and dangerous places.
  3. BE THERE — Listen to their feelings and communicate with them. Acknowledging suicidal tendencies or thoughts has been known to decrease the risk of suicide.
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT — Provide resources they can access in times of crisis such as the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Additionally, you may also put them in contact with a trusted advisor like a friend, family member, or mental health professional.
  5. STAY CONNECTED — Follow up with them to not only make sure they’re fine, but to show someone cares for them and is always willing to help.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available 24/7 — call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 —or call 911 for immediate, life-threatening situations. Professional counseling services from Cathy Rigg, LCSW are available at Rushville Family Practice and the Elmer Hugh Taylor Clinic. To schedule an appointment, call (217) 322-3345 in Rushville or (217) 323-2245 in Beardstown.