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Suicide –Four Things to Know

Today, it is impossible to be unaware of the far-reaching effects of suicide. If you are not directly impacted by someone you know, or if you aren’t or haven’t experienced suicidal thoughts yourself, you’ve at least heard on the news about someone you’ve been familiar with that may have died by suicide. The effects of suicide have severely increased after the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) have provided the below statistics:

· Suicide is the current 11th leading cause of death.

· In 2021, there were an estimated 1.70 million suicide attempts.

· In 2021, 48,183 Americans died by suicide.

Due to the severity of suicide, we cannot be afraid to have the difficult conversations surrounding suicide. Suicide is a very prevalent part of our society now. Hence, with this post, here are four things to know about suicide.

What is Suicide & What are Causes of Suicide?

Suicide is the intentional taking of one’s own life ( Suicide can be caused by a variety of factors. Suicide is a complex issue that triggers many feelings within people, whether they have suicidal thoughts or behaviors or not. There are people who will not speak of the topic whether out of disbelief, rejection, shame, or fear. There are also individuals who are afraid of speaking about suicide for the belief that talking about it makes it more real or gives it more power.

As a result, there are a wide variety of causes for suicide. Ultimately, many individuals who have experienced suicidal thoughts have expressed concerns such as:

· Extreme emotional pain

· Difficulty coping with their life situations

· Diminished hope for the future

· Feeling isolated and alone

Risk Factors

Risk factors are red flags that should raise alarm bells to go off for us. Risk factors indicate that an individual may be at risk or may be thinking about hurting themselves. We live in a society that is severely distracted by technology. We don’t always give our full attention to the people around us and this is a risk in itself. We also live in a society that heavily focuses on good/pleasurable feelings and avoids talking about feelings that do not fit into this box.

Hence, risk factors are important indicators to us about the people in our lives who may be at risk of suicide. As noted by ASFP, risk factors may include:

· Mental health disorders

· Substance use disorders

· Traumatic brain injury

· Serious physical health conditions

· Prolonged stressors – work, family, career, school

· Transitional life events – divorce, job loss, financial crises, death or loss of a loved one

· History of suicidal attempts

· Chronic illnesses

· Abuse

· Family history of suicide

Another way to assess risk factors is to explore an individual’s feeling of connectivity. Someone’s feelings of not wanting to leave their family or their hopefulness for the future are considered protective factors. The stronger factors such as these are, the stronger the hope is to reduce any suicidal ideations someone may be experiencing. It is important to recognize that suicidal ideations are not rare as noted in this Buzzfeed article. We are all humans and life can be overwhelming. Do not shame or engage in judgement. Offer help. If you cannot, then try to get them help.

Warning Signs

Frequently, there are warning signs that indicate individuals may be thinking of taking their lives. Not every person will experience the same symptoms or demonstrate the same signs. Hence, this is why it is essential to talk continuously with our loved ones.

Here are a few warning signs to consider as per the AFSP:

· When a person talks – do they sound hopeless? Do they talk about killing themselves? Do they talk about experiencing unending and extreme pain or that they feel like a burden?

· Do their behaviors change? Are they engaging in more high-risk behaviors such as withdrawing from things they enjoy, increased alcohol or substance use, changes in sleeping or eating, giving away prized items? Or do they demonstrate decreased energy?

· Have you noticed changes in their moods, such as loss of interest in activities, anger and irritability, increased depression, or increased shame?

Treatment for Suicide

It is important to understand that suicide does not discriminate. No person – no matter what their demographics – is immune to feeling hopeless or depressed. Additionally, suicide is not contagious. You cannot catch suicidal thoughts from talking to a friend or relative who has decided to confide in you about how they are really feeling. When someone makes the choice to open up and share their pain with you, receive this as the true gift it is, and help them seek professional help immediately.

Treatment can start by texting/calling/chatting with 988.

Or go to the nearest emergency room. Or call 911. Help is available. If someone tells you they are struggling with difficult emotions, help them find a therapist and get into consistent therapy. There are a variety of treatment modalities that are effective with treating suicidal ideations including Dialectical Behavior Therapy/Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

Additionally, treatment may be dependent on what factors are contributing to the person’s suicidal thoughts. Again, treatment is not once size fits all as suicide is a complex issue. Treatment is also available in individual therapy or group therapy. Sometimes it helps individuals to know that they are not the only ones experiencing these feelings – this is the value of group therapy.

Photocred: Anthony Tran/

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