We often hear about heart disease, cancer and accidents being the leading cause of deaths among several age groups. A plethora of information is available on lifestyle changes such as eating healthy, quitting smoking and wearing seat belts to reduce the risk of death. Yet, little discussion occurs surrounding the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.- Suicide. How much do we know about suicide and ways to prevent it?
According to the CDC an estimated 2.7 million people made a plan in the past year about how they would attempt suicide. What leads to suicide? There is no single cause. Suicide most often occurs when stress exceeds one’s ability to cope with a mental health condition. Suicide risk factors such as depression, bipolar disorder are examples of health factors that may increase one’s risk in attempting to take their life. Environmental stress such as prolonged stress or stressful life events such as divorce or job loss also may increase one’s risk.
At times family and friends are in a position to best recognize the warning signs of suicide and they may be the most helpful in getting that person the help they need. It may be hard to believe that a loved one could be thinking of suicide. You may prefer to believe that it is just an attempt to get attention. However, what if you are wrong? It is important to take any suicidal thought/comment seriously.
What are some of the warning signs for suicide? You may see changes in someone’s behavior or you may hear them make statements alluding to suicide.
Signs to look for:
- Withdrawing from activities.
- Isolating from family and friends.
- Acting recklessly.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Increased use of drugs and alcohol.
- Giving away possessions.
- Increased irritability.
- Saying things like “Life isn’t worth living” or “You’d be better off without me.”
- Dramatic change in dress, activities or friends.
There are certain conditions that are associated with increased risk of suicide:
- Loss of job, home, money or status.
- Death of a loved one.
- Divorce, break up or family stress.
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Chronic illness.
- Previous suicide attempt.
- Chronic stress such as abuse, bullying or harassment.