Hope and Recovery: A Suicide Prevention Guide
As the tenth leading cause of death, suicide presents a serious threat to public health in the United States. Annually, nearly 500,000 individuals receive help for injuries that are self-inflicted, while 40,000 Americans die as a result of symptoms suicide attempts. Despite the seriousness associated with it, there are still many misconceptions about suicide, who may become suicidal, and why. These misconceptions may cause people to fail to seek help or make others oblivious to the signs. To reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts, education is vital.
Understanding and Preventing Suicide
An understanding of suicide is a crucial component when it comes to prevention. This is important for not only the people who are attempting to help someone but also for people who may be suffering from suicidal thoughts themselves. Suicide and suicide attempts are often a result of some form of emotional pain or distress, and one’s inability to effectively cope with it. While mental illness may play a role for some, it is not a prerequisite, as many suicidal individuals have no mental illness. Although suicide attempts may lead to death, the act is preventable if the right actions are taken either by the person contemplating it or by those who wish to stop it. A person who finds themselves thinking suicidal thoughts should talk to someone about their feelings. While family and friends are the immediate and obvious choice, one may also turn to their doctor, a counselor, a suicide hotline, or a religious leader. Also, they should remove anything in their immediate environment that could be used to harm themselves and avoid substances such as drugs or alcohol, as these may heighten negative feelings.
At some point, most people who attempt suicide either threaten or warn others of their intent. Understanding this can be a step toward suicide prevention. Those considering suicide may share this information with others seriously or casually; however, it is something that must always be taken seriously. To help prevent others from committing suicide, one should offer support and a non-judgmental and listening ear. One should be empathetic and encourage the person in question to seek help. As the individual talks about his or her feelings and thoughts, one can verbalize their commitment to helping, encourage them not to give up, and ask how to help them best. Advice and arguments should be avoided. The goal is to prevent them from harming themselves and encourage them to seek the help needed to decrease the chance of future suicidal ideation.
Warning Signs That a Person has Suicidal Thoughts
While some suicides may seem unexpected or surprising, people often show some signs of their intent, whether those signs are subtle or glaring. Common warning signs that a person is suicidal include self-destructive behavior and other reckless acts such as:
- driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol)
- talking about suicide
- expressing a preoccupation with death and dying
- talking or behaving in a way that suggests feelings of self-hatred or worthlessness
- getting their affairs in order
- giving away their belongings
- creating a will
- making other similar arrangements.
Other warning signs include actively seeking weapons or other lethal objects that can be used to self-harm, withdrawal, and an extreme switch in mood from depression to a sudden calmness.
While anyone may potentially decide to commit suicide, there are certain types of people who are at a higher risk. These people have certain things in common that can range from environmental factors to health factors. Mental health issues including schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and prolonged or severe physical illness are factors that elevate one’s risk of suicide. Pain, abuse of drugs or alcohol, and feelings of loneliness are also risk factors. Family history or previous personal attempts place individuals at a higher risk, as does access to firearms and other potentially lethal means. Divorce, job loss, the death of a loved one, a history of child abuse or maltreatment, feelings of isolation, and feelings of intense hopelessness are all also factors. Even living near or in an area where there has been an epidemic or swell of suicides may make one more susceptible.
Treatment and Interventions
The road to recovery from a suicide attempt or suicidal feelings is one that may take some time. People can help themselves by avoiding situations and people that trigger suicidal thoughts. If the trigger is a particular day of the year, one should avoid being alone on that day. Building a support network is crucial on several levels, as it helps people realize that they are not alone and provides them with trusted individuals to whom they can turn in times of need. Learning to cope with unavoidable stress is also important to one’s treatment process and recovery, as is seeking out new ways to feel fulfilled, such as volunteering one’s time or taking up a new hobby. For some, intervention may be necessary to start them on the path to recovery.
Intervention is of the utmost necessity if one’s suicide threat level seems high. In such cases, action should be taken quickly, and the individual at risk should not be left alone at any point. It is crucial that any lethal objects are removed from the vicinity, and that 911 is called for assistance. Other options are to take the person to an emergency room, an urgent care center, or a psychiatric hospital’s walk-in clinic for help. Treatment from a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor may involve helping the individual to determine, understand, and cope with problems that may be causing the suicidal thoughts. Mental health professionals may also diagnose any mental health issues that might be present and prescribe medications.
Many different kinds of people attempt suicide, from men to women, adults to children, in any country and of any ethnicity or background. However, the rate of death is highest amongst men, and for people who are over the age of 75. It is even higher among white males who are 80 years old or greater. A suicide attempt can be lethal to the individual who carries it out, and it can also negatively affect the lives of that person’s loved ones and friends. When a person commits suicide, the people who are left behind are left with feelings of grief, and occasionally guilt, anger, and other emotions. These individuals may decide to seek counseling for help with coping.
- Understanding and Preventing Suicide
- Understanding Suicide
- Suicide Prevention
- Fact Sheet: Understanding and Preventing Suicide (PDF)
- The Role of Co-Workers in Preventing Suicide in the Workplace (PDF)
- Suicide Help
- Coping with Suicidal Thoughts (PDF)
- Suicide – No Suicide Attempt Should be Treated Lightly
- About Teen Suicide
- Preventing Suicide
- General Information About Suicide
- Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions
- Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts
- Suicide Fact Sheet
- Suicide Statistics
- Suicide and Suicidal Behavior
- Preventing Youth and Adult Suicide
- Suicide Prevention
- Facts About Mental Illness and Suicide
- Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults (PDF)
- Suicide – Causes
- Men’s Health – Suicide