Learning more about suicide is the first step to preventing it
Each year, almost 45,000 people die by suicide, and an additional one million people attempt it. This is what we know, but the numbers are thought to be higher. Mental health stigma prevents many people from reaching out and asking for help. But being aware of the warning signs can assist in decreasing both suicide attempts and deaths.
What causes someone to start thinking about suicide?
There is no single reason why someone might contemplate suicide. Suicide does not discriminate by age, gender, wealth, race, religious preference, or sexuality. Someone thinking about suicide may be experiencing symptoms of mental illness, or a variety of life stressors. It could be loss of a loved one, financial strain, relationship issues, losing a job, changes in their health, or another significant life change.
What are some warning signs?
Common warnings signs that someone may be thinking about suicide include:
- Changes in mood
- Giving away prized possessions
- Putting final affairs in order
- Changes in physical appearance
- Prior suicide attempts
- Alcohol or drug use
- High risk behaviors
- Making statements with themes of hopelessness, helplessness, and fear of becoming a burden
- Making verbal suicide threats, such as “I want to die” or “I’m going to kill myself”
- Any other significant changes
Trust your gut. If something feels different or wrong and you’re concerned, it probably is.
What can you do to help someone who might be suicidal?
If you are concerned about a loved one who may be at risk for suicide, ask them “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Are you having thoughts of killing yourself?” Simply asking the question can save a life.
There are many myths about suicide. One of them is that if you ask a person if they are having thoughts of suicide, you are planting the seed. This is not true. In fact, asking the question opens the door for that person to share personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences. If a person is thinking about suicide, help them access resources. They can call the local crisis line, make an appointment with a mental health professional, or access support from their religious community.
HealthPartners offers numerous programs to help those experiencing mental illness, and allies looking to help a loved one. Our Make it OK campaign works towards ending the stigma associated with mental illness, and to start more conversations. Take the pledge today to take a stand against stigma.
External resources are also available if you need immediate help:
- American Association of Suicidology
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255