Increasing Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Every year 42,773 Americans die by suicide. And for every suicide accomplished, there are 25 attempts.

The most likely candidate, however, might be a surprise. Teen suicides tend to receive a lot of attention, perhaps for the loss of so much potential life left. But the age group with the most suicides is between 45-65. Men are three and a half times more likely to die from suicide than women (though women are more likely to attempt it). And in 2014, the most recent year for which such figures were available, 38,675 of the 42,773 people who died from suicide were white.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. In other words, being able to help requires not only awareness, but also specific therapies. Current treatments might include medication, psychotherapies (sometimes combined with antidepressants), electroconvulsive therapy or other tactics. In addition, special attention must be paid to those with bipolar disorder or alcohol/drug abuse, as each can increase suicide risk.

Overall, however, there’s no one “cause” of suicide. Depression, anxiety, stressors that reach beyond coping ability, chronic health conditions and numerous other factors may all play a part.

Here’s what to watch for, from AFSP:

  • Talking about being a burden to others, feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain, having no reason to live, or killing themselves
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs or other reckless behaviors
  • Withdrawal from activities/isolation from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling to say goodbye and/or giving away prized possessions
  • Looking for ways to kill themselves, such as searching for information online
  • Depression, rage, irritability, humiliation, anxiety and/or loss of interest.

It’s also important to consider previous suicide attempts and/or family history of suicide attempts.

If someone exhibits the warning signs of suicide, do not leave the person alone. Remove any sharp objects, firearms, alcohol or drugs that might be used in an attempt, and seek professional help immediately.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-TALK (8255).

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