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Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life. According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, taking the lives of approximately 38,000 Americans each year.
There’s no single reason why someone may try to take their own life, but certain factors can increase the risk. Someone may be more likely to attempt suicide if they have a mental health disorder. Over 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death. Depression is the top risk factor, but there are various other mental health disorders that can contribute to suicide, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Aside from mental illnesses, there are several risk factors that may contribute to thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, and actual suicide. They include:
Those who have been shown to be at a higher risk for suicide are:
People who have suicidal thoughts are often so overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and hopelessness that they think they have no other option. While it can be hard to know how someone is feeling on the inside, there are various behaviors that can indicate suicidal tendencies. It’s important to recognize these warning signs so you can help a family member or a friend who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Taking action and getting someone the help they need may help prevent a tragic suicide attempt or death.
Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 right away if you:
You can’t see what a person is feeling on the inside, so it isn’t always easy to identify someone who is having suicidal thoughts. However, some outward warning signs that a person may be contemplating suicide include:
Talk about suicide or open threats to commit suicide should always be taken seriously. Call for help right away if the threat of suicide is immediate. You can call 911 or the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
While you wait for help to arrive, stay with your friend or loved one. Calmly reassure them that all will be well. Remove any obvious means of causing self-harm, such as firearms, sharp objects, or dangerous medications.
Many factors increase the risk for suicide. These factors are separated into three categories: biopsychosocial, environmental, and sociocultural.
Biopsychosocial causes account for most suicides and attempted suicides. These causes include mental health disorders such as:
Additional biopsychosocial causes include:
Environmental factors that increase the risk for suicide often occur due to a stressful life event. This may include the loss of a person, pet, or job. Other causes include:
One of the main sociocultural causes of suicide is the feeling of being isolated or of not being accepted by others. Feelings of isolation can be caused by sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and gender identity.
Other possible suicide catalysts in this category include:
Your health care provider may be able to determine whether you are at a high risk for suicide based on your symptoms, personal history, and family history.
Your health care provider will want to know when your symptoms started and how often you experience them. They will also ask you about any past or current medical problems and about certain conditions that may run in your family. This can help them determine possible explanations for your symptoms and which tests will be needed to make a diagnosis.
Assessments may include:
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your suicidal thoughts and behavior. In most cases, however, treatment consists of talk therapy and medication.
Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, is one possible treatment method for lowering your risk of committing suicide. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that’s often used for people who are having thoughts of suicide. It teaches you how to work through stressful life events and emotions that may be contributing to your suicidal thoughts and behavior. CBT can also help you replace negative beliefs with positive ones and regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life.
If talk therapy isn’t enough to successfully lower your risk, then you may be prescribed medication that can ease symptoms caused by certain physical and mental health conditions. Treating the underlying cause of symptoms can help reduce the frequency of suicidal thoughts. You be prescribed one or more of the following types of medication:
In addition to taking medication and participating in talk therapy, you can reduce your risk for suicide by making certain adjustments to your lifestyle. These include:
To help prevent suicidal thoughts, you should:
If you suspect that a family member or friend may be considering suicide, you should talk to them about your concerns. You can begin the conversation by asking questions in a non-judgmental and non-confrontational way. You may ask them:
If they answer “yes” to any of those questions, then they are at a high risk of trying to commit suicide and they should get professional care immediately. Calling 911 or going to a hospital emergency room are good ways to prevent a suicide attempt. Another option is to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If your friend or loved one isn’t in immediate danger but is having suicidal thoughts, then you can simply speak to them about the challenges they may be facing. During the conversation, make sure you:
You should never minimize their problems or shame them into changing their mind. Listening to them and showing your support is the best way to help them. You can also try encouraging them to seek professional care. Offer to help them find a health care provider or mental health professional, make a phone call, or go with them to their first appointment.
It’s critical to take action if you're in a position to help. Starting a conversation and risking your feelings to help save a life is a risk worth taking.
Written by: April Kahn
Published on: Jun 14, 2012
Medically reviewed on: Jan 27, 2016: [Ljava.lang.Object;@6cd4b2e5
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