This month is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Understanding suicidality and being able to recognize and address it at home and within our communities is important, especially among our most vulnerable groups. The topic of suicide has, unfortunately, become more relevant in recent years, as 2021 and 2022 both mark an uptick in self-harm and suicide statistics after a two-year decline. Overall, suicide has increased 36 percent between 2000-2021.
While suicidal thinking is higher among women, nearly 80 percent of people who die by suicide are male. The age groups most likely to struggle with suicide include ages 15 to 44, and 65 to 74. While deaths by suicide are harrowing, there is often a pattern of pain that preempts suicide; for every suicide death per year, there are three hospitalizations for self-harm, 38 self-reported suicide attempts, and 265 people who report contemplating suicide.
Suicide is an incredibly widespread issue – and one that can be addressed and minimized through actionable prevention measures. In this newsletter, we at Amend Treatment want to help readers better understand the strongest predictors for suicidality and the best ways to support those of us who need help the most.
What causes suicide? The decision to end your own life is not one made lightly, and researchers have spent time trying to discern which behavioral or cognitive patterns most often pre-empt suicide. In general, based on the analysis of thousands of suicide notes and recurring factors, the most common predictors for suicidality include a strong sense of burden towards others and the capacity for self-harm.
There were other common elements, such as feeling lonely, feeling helpless, and contemplating death as an escape from pain, or as an escape from a bleak social or economic situation. But the elements that most strongly distinguished people who thought about suicide, and those who died by suicide, are the feeling that they are the problem, and the ability to endure great pain.
Recognizing the Warning Signs in Your Loved Ones
Sudden changes in behavior
Unexplained and frequent pains
Trouble sleeping, or chronically oversleeping
A period of serenity after sadness
Frequently discussing death and dying
Seeking lethal means
Experiences with suicidal behavior in the past
Preparing for death
How Can Suicide Be Prevented?
There are often multiple factors that preempt suicidal ideation and an eventual suicide attempt. Rather than a single event or emotional cause, it’s the convergence of different risk factors within a certain period that often sparks the decision to end one’s own life.
Much like how a fire can only start under the right – or wrong – circumstances, kicking the legs out from underneath these risk factors can greatly reduce the risk of suicide. If you don’t know where to start, it’s a good idea to start by talking.
Ask questions and talk frequently
Initiate conversations about mental health and suicide prevention with your family, friends, and colleagues. Be there for those who may be struggling and encourage them to seek help. Don’t let awareness end with September. Keep the conversation on suicide prevention and mental health ongoing throughout the year.
Get help together
Being a compassionate listener is not always enough. If someone you know is potentially suicidal or showing signs of suicidality, contact a mental health professional immediately. If they are in treatment for a mental health issue, talk to them about calling their therapist or doctor. Otherwise, talk to them about calling someone together, or getting help together.
Seeking treatment can be daunting, and in many cases, people don’t want the stigma attached to being “treated”. It can help to offer to be with them every step of the way. If possible, talk to your loved one about considering a residential care program where they can learn from other people who have overcome suicidality and receive specialized, individualized care, such as Amend Treatment.
More than a shoulder to cry on, being there for someone going through a period of suicidality helps alleviate the feelings of isolation and loneliness that are often common in people experiencing suicidal ideation. Offer to stay over for a few days or ask them to stay with you. Give them space and privacy when they need it but check in often. When they seem to be doing better, be sure to follow up with them frequently in the coming weeks.
Remove sources of danger
There are limits to what you can do to help someone stay safe when they’re at the highest risk for suicide. However, a good place to start is to try and remove immediate sources of danger, such as guns, knives, razors, and drugs. If they need certain medication that can be used to potentially overdose, talk to them about managing their medication for them, so they get their prescribed dose without the risk.
Encourage human contact and support
A common thread for many people with suicidal thoughts is the feeling that they are alone, even when they are surrounded by their loved ones. They may be struggling with thoughts or anxieties they can’t share with others, or they feel that there is simply no hope. That feeling of hopelessness can be hard to dispel, especially on your own. Work with your loved one to find them the support they need to realize that they aren’t alone with their thoughts and struggles and that there are ways to surmount the pain they are feeling and find purpose in life again.
Keep your crisis resources at hand
Share resources, statistics, and informative articles within your community. Spreading accurate information can help dispel myths and reduce stigma. Share resources for suicide prevention, such as the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 988lifeline.org, or the crisis counselor text line of the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 741-741.
We Can All Work to Prevent Suicide During National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Life is precious and unpredictable. There’s no telling what’s around the bend.
Sometimes, what awaits us is the worst day of our lives. But there’s another sunrise after that day, and another, and another – and with each passing moment, life continues to unfold in ways we could never anticipate. It’s important to keep in mind that things do change for the better, even after they’ve changed for the worse. And you’ll never quite know what life has in store for you unless you live to see it.
As a strong cultural taboo, suicide is not something brought up very often at the dinner table or during family outings. But by talking about it, we do rob it of some of its power – and help minimize or eliminate the stigma of mental health problems. We all struggle from time to time, whether it’s with severe doubts or episodes of prolonged sadness. Some of us struggle more than others and need more support.
Recognizing and acting on the warning signs in a loved one is crucial, and by acknowledging and learning about the warning signs of suicidality, we can help minimize the loss of human life by suicide. Get in touch with us at Amend Treatment to learn more about our residential treatment program, and our comprehensive aftercare services.