Guns, suspension bridges, carbon monoxide, drugs, drowning and alcohol all have at least one thing in common: They all are used as suicide agents. Unfortunately, these are all common ways of ending one’s life. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people. Men are more successful on the first attempt, whereas women attempt suicide more often. Each year 42,773 individuals die by suicide, and there are 25 attempts for every suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide is one of the biggest cries for help, and recognizing the signs and knowing what steps to take can help answer that cry.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, National Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day are all observed in September. These observances are designated to remember those affected by suicide, whether they attempted suicide but failed, have had suicidal thoughts or lost a loved one due to suicide. Preventing suicide is saving someone’s life, allowing that person to live a little bit longer and to experience a little more joy and love. So how can caregivers, friends and family members prevent suicide?
Signs and risk factors for suicide
To prevent suicide, it is important to first know the triggers and symptoms. Suicidal ideations or threats of killing oneself are the most obvious telltale signs of a forthcoming suicide. It is important to take these threats seriously and not to ignore them.
Other signs of a potential suicide attempt include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends
- Writing or talking about suicide
- Dramatic mood swings
- Reckless behavior
Risk factors for suicide include:
- A family history of suicide
- Mental illness
- Substance abuse
- A history of trauma or abuse
- Access to firearms
- Prolonged stress
- A recent loss
Steps to prevent suicide
If someone you know is showing one of these signs, here are steps you can take to hopefully prevent the loss of life:
- Always show compassion and love when trying to prevent suicide. Emotions and feelings can be raw, but try to communicate your intentions first without becoming angry.
- Remove all firearms and weapons from the person’s presence.
- Remove all unnecessary medications and illegal drugs if present.
- Be open and honest about suicide and try to have a conversation about what the person is going through. Make this conversation about him or her. Ask the person what is bothering him or her and how it can be fixed. Inquire about the person’s feelings and mood.
- Do not be afraid to ask the person if he or she is having suicidal thoughts. Although this may be difficult, it is important to always be upfront when trying to address life-threatening issues.
- Give the person time and space to think and respond, but if you think the person is in immediate danger, ask if he or she is willing to seek help at a local hospital.
- Unfortunately, many individuals may be in denial or may become angry and refuse help. If you feel you have done everything to help the person out of this situation and he or she is still in danger, do not be afraid to involve the police. Law enforcement can intervene when necessary and can force an involuntary psychiatric hold, in which the individual is placed in treatment for a certain amount of time depending on the state. The individual also is evaluated closely by a psychiatrist.
- If you are uncomfortable calling local law enforcement, try calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
White River Academy is a therapeutic treatment facility for adolescent boys from ages 12 to 17. White River Academy has experts who can help in the treatment of mental illness, substance abuse and co-occurring conditions. By providing treatment in these areas, suicide can be prevented. For more information on our comprehensive, individualized behavioral health treatment services, please contact our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our team.
About the author
Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a senior staff writer and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of medicine. She is a physician and author who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is also an outdoor and dog enthusiast.