Coping with Mental Health: Suicide Prevention
If you or someone you know is in danger, please call 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Having suicidal thoughts is not uncommon (called suicidal ideation). “In 2015, 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older reported having serious thoughts about trying to kill themselves, and 1.4 million adults aged 18 or older attempted suicide during the past year. Among those adults who attempted suicide, 1.1 million also reported making suicide plans.”
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States (and world), and is a public health concern. For ages 15-34, it is the number two leading cause of death.1 In the U.S. it claims approximately 44,000 lives annually.
About 90% of people who die by suicide experience mental illness.2 Men complete suicide about four times as often as women, though women make more suicide attempts.3
Known risk factors for suicide include:4
- A family history of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- Availability of firearms
- A chronic illness or medical condition
- Substance abuse
- A personal history of abuse or trauma
- Chronic stress
- Recent loss
Suicide is an important and often neglected subject for individuals with chronic illness. Research shows that rates of mental illness for those with a chronic illness or medical condition are greater than the non-ill population. If you or someone you know has a chronic health condition, knowing the warning signs is a valuable set of tools.
Some warning signs for suicidal thoughts include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Increase in risk taking, impulsive, or reckless behavior
- Threats or comments like “I wish I were dead,” that become more serious
- Severe mood swings
- Increase or new drug use
- Talking or writing about death5
Warning signs indicating imminent danger include:
- Putting affairs in order
- Giving away possessions
- Efforts to find needed instruments like toxins, weapons, or firearms
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- A switch from highly emotional moods to calm (this could suggest they are no longer worried about their struggles due to a suicide plan)6
What can be done to help
Many people who are considering suicide may not wish to attempt or complete it, yet see no other way out. Signs or comments about suicide should be taken seriously. If you are concerned about a loved one or friend, consider straightforward, non-judgmental questions followed by listening with empathy and understanding. You may be the only one that has shown any concern, and your efforts could make a difference. Consider asking about the frequency and intensity of suicidal feelings, how long it has been occurring, and if they have a plan.
If you or someone you know is in imminent danger, call 9-1-1. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts and desires of suicide, but not in imminent danger, seek resources like lifelines and counseling services. There are many lifelines and online chat services that offer trained professionals to discuss what is going on and direct you to resources in your area.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7) or online chat.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (M-F, 10 AM – 6 PM EST) or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text “NAMI” to 741741.
For Veterans: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7) or online chat.
For LGBTQ affirming services: 866-488-7386 (24/7) or text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200 (M-F 3pm-10pm EST) or chat online.