STOP and read the following clearly. This article may be troubling to somebody thinking about suicide. This article is about personal and factual experiences regarding suicide. Please do not read if you are in a dark place and feeling suicidal. Suicide is never the answer, finding help and support IS. At the end of this article, I listed numerous resources, to obtain more information on this topic, as well as crisis hotline numbers for immediate support. Please utilize these fully.
What is the definition of suicide: Suicide is defined as the “act of taking one’s own life?” In addition, suicidal ideation is “thinking of ending one’s life.” Some view suicide as a cry for help. I view suicide as a way out, getting to the point where life is just too painful to live. Yes, part of me wants to live, but the other part has given up and cannot handle the highs and lows. I know my friends and family would miss me, but in the end, suicide is a selfish choice. However, most individuals who commit suicide really do not want to die. For folks without a mental illness it is very hard for outsiders to understand why one would choose to take their own lives. I have heard this comment many a time. “Somebody has cancer and is dying, don’t you think they would be angry knowing they could have lived and you killed yourself on purpose”? What folks do not get is that it is an illness, and I am hurting. Yes, you are not seeing it, but it does not make it not there. People in the depths of feeling suicidal are in SO much pain, it actually hurts to live, and can see no other way out.
Therapy and medication can also help individuals that are feeling suicidal. While the medication can sometimes take a few weeks to get to therapeutic level, therapy can take place starting right away, and help reduce the thoughts of suicide.
Because statistics vary, the stats below are accurate according to various sources:
The World Health Organization estimates that about 1 million deaths by suicide occur each year, making it the 10th leading cause of death worldwide. Of these the highest risk of suicide are white men. However, women and teens have more suicide attempts. Of these about 30,000 or 2/3s are patients with major depression or bipolar illness. In addition, even scarier, 10-20 million non-fatal attempts are made each year.
Triggers and Risks
So what factors contribute to the sad completion of a suicide or increase the risk?
What are the risk factors and triggers (I have chosen to name the predominant ones)?
• Mental Illness (Depression, Bipolar disorder (especially mixed states, schizophrenia, substance abuse)
• Means of suicide (i.e. pills, weapons, etc.)
• Social situation (i.e. living alone, single, recent loss)
• Severity of mood disorder (hallucinations, mixed states, moods and reasoning),
• Employment (i.e. new job, job loss, new position)
• Incarceration/Trouble with the Law (i.e. in jail or prison)
• Previous attempt within 30 days or exposure to others suicidal behavior, peers, media, etc.
• Family history of suicide attempts, and/or family history of mental disorder, or substance abuse
• Physical illness (chronic pain, early on-set diabetes, stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and terminal illness)
• Relationship Change (new marriage, divorce, break up)
• History of trauma, abuse, or violence.
Mixed state bipolar mental illness is the most dangerous of all. This is because depression and mania are occurring simultaneously. Somebody in a mixed state has the energy to commit suicide, and the depression to want to. Being that they are depressed and manic at the same time.
While this may not entail all warning signs below captures a large amount of the most common signs.
• Discussing death, such as talking about wanting to die or that life is not worth living. Feeling like you have no purpose to live or no sense of purpose in life.
• Threatening to hurt or kill oneself.
• Feeling agitated and anxious.
• Feeling hopeless about future and feeling there is nothing worth living for, wishing you‘d never been born.
• Hating oneself, and feeling like you are a burden. Feelings of worthless or having low self-esteem.
• Writing a suicide letter, saying goodbye to friends or family, writing about death or dying.
• Start withdrawing from family and friends, also isolating and not wanting to leave the house, and deal with society.
• Looking for lethal means to hurt oneself, such as guns, stock piling pills
• Preoccupation with death, such as discussing death on a frequent basis.
• Increase in alcohol and/or drug use.
• Driving recklessly and obsession with killing oneself will attempt theses self-destructive behaviors.
• Feeling rage or uncontrolled rage, or dramatic mood changes
• Unable to sleep, or on the other end of the spectrum sleeping all the time.
• A spurt of energy, allowing the person who is depressed to be able to enact the plan they have developed.1 (i.e. mixed states)
• Depressed, psychosis, impulsive
• Crying out for help in various ways
• Philosophical reason to die (feelings it’s their destiny)
Prevention of Suicide
How can we prevent those considering suicide to turn their thoughts around and think about the positive factors in their life that would make life worth living?
I understand how hard this is. While I am still a work in progress, reversing my thoughts and training my brain to see the positive and not the negative. I am not saying it is easy, but as I am learning, it is possible.
I personally find that when the season changes, and the light outside get shorter my mood changes. In addition, as silly as this may sound, the full moon throws off my mood.
If somebody brings up suicide, ALWAYS take it seriously. Talking to the person who is suicidal cannot cause somebody to be worse off. For example, if an individual seems to be suffering from depression, creating a casual conversation about suicide is not inappropriate. If the individuals reveal that they are indeed suicidal, they need all the support they can get. For starters, ask how long that they have felt suicidal, and ask if there was a particular trigger or cause. Being attentive, as well as listening in a calm manner can help the suicidal individual.
Another helpful tip is to share with the individual any similar situations in which you have felt depressed, manic, or suicidal as well. The individual will be able to relate which in turn will create an understandable dialog.
Evaluating Suicide Risk:
So what do you do if the people you are discussing suicide with tell you they have a plan and they are going to kill themselves?
If the individual has a plan and the means, the quickest suggestion is to call 911 or take the person to an emergency room, or psychiatric facility. If the person will not budge staying with the individual and calling, a suicide hotline is the next best thing. Perhaps the hotline can convince them to hand over their “means” of suicide, or convince them to go to a hospital to be evaluated. NEVER leave them by themselves!
Being Supportive and Empathic:
So how do you help somebody whom of which is suicidal? If somebody is suicidal but not in such a bad place that they need quick hospitalization, helping them to find support whether through a support group, or professional support and help. Set a safety plan, for example, that the individual will call you every few hours to check in. Another suggestion is to remove any means for committing suicide.
Additionally help the person to create a suicide plan during which time they promise to delay suicide by 24hrs…then 48 hrs…etc. Help the individual call their immediately doctor, therapist, and/or psychiatrist. If needed go with the person to the appointment
Suicide Hotline Information
National Suicide Prevention Hotline (available 24/7)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (available 24/7)
National Suicide Hotline
National Institute of Mental Health
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
American Psychiatric Association (APA)
American Psychological Association
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA)
National Mental Health Association (NMHA)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
***I have obtained much of this information from various sources available on the internet. Much of the research I have done for this article is a compilation of these sources.
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