In the United States, suicide is known as the tenth leading cause of death. Every 11 minutes, one person intentionally harms one’s own body with meaning for the injury to be lethal.
Even though people often associate suicide with feelings of isolation and loneliness, it is actually a mental illness – a serious potential outcome that arises from treatable biopsychosocial factors, such as schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
This September for #SuicidePreventionAwarenessMonth, we’re focusing on the most common suicide warning signs – a key to learning more about and preventing the tragedy. It is thanks to an awareness raise and increase in resources, suicide prevention efforts have become more open and effective. First launched in 2008, National Suicide Prevention Month is now the time when family and friends, health experts, and survivors all over the globe share their stories, educate others, and assist to connect individuals with effective treatment services.
Who Is Most Likely to Commit Suicide?
Unfortunately, suicide knows no discrimination. Whether you’re a Hollywood star or homeless, suicidal thoughts may occupy your mind at any point of your life. Still, there are certain groups that tend to have higher rates of suicide.
Young adults and teens are more vulnerable to suicide mainly because of risky behavior and impulsivity. College years are the time when they experiment with drugs and alcohol that are usually at the foundation of suicidal ideations. Young people assume new adult roles that entail the stress caused by rapid life changes. They’re far away from home and their support systems. It’s time to make new friends, live with strangers, and study under time pressure. This stressful atmosphere results in sleep problems, eating disorders, and suicidal ideations. According to the U.S.A. Suicide: 2020 Official Final Data, suicide is the third main cause of death for teenagers and young adults at the age of 15-24. At the same time, suicide is reported to be the second most common cause of death among college and university students. 1 in 5 undergrads reported having had thoughts of taking one’s own life, based on the study published in Depression and Anxiety (with over 67,000 undergrads engaged in the study). Compared to heterosexual peers, LGBTQ youth is more prone to suicidal thoughts.
Suicidal Warning Signs to Take Very Seriously
There are some common warning signs that signal someone you know is contemplating suicide. Although you may not know what stands behind their emotions, their words and actions can give you clues that they are thinking of ending their life.
Even though you might not always be able to spot these characteristics, some of the most common signs that a person next to you is attempting to hurt himself will help you identify the potential tragedy:
- Isolation. Someone you know has zero pleasure or interest in various social activities they enjoyed before. Besides, they tend to withdraw from the crowd and avoid any sort of social contact with family and friends.
- Moodiness and intense sadness. Mood swings, severe sadness, hopelessness, and tearfulness – the normal ups and downs turn into a routine.
- Desperation. If the person engages in conversations about no reason for living and talks about feeling stuck in a never-ending flow of emotional pain, chances are you see an actual example of suicidal behavior.
- Getting ready. As a rule, people feeling suicidal may start making preparations in both business and personal areas. Making a will, giving unusual gifts that usually include personal possessions, visiting family and friends, and cleaning their places may indicate the risk of suicide in this person goes up.
- Considering lethal options. This is one of the signs that someone you’re concerned about is considering deliberately ending one’s own life. However, it can be both obvious (when the person is talking about how one can buy a gun) and hidden (purchasing and stocking tons of pills in a secret place). For that reason, you have to be extra aware of the access that someone has to the lethal options and notice when small talk turns into a step-by-step suicide checklist.
- Dangerous lifestyle. If someone you know demonstrates any unusual changes in behavior that leads to self-harm, you need to be especially watchful. Drug/alcohol abuse, risky sex, and driving recklessly are some of the potential signals the person is about harming oneself.
- Self-neglect. In this case, changes in appearance are involved. A person who is planning to commit suicide in the nearest future may all of a sudden stop caring about their appearance.
Prevention Is the Key
The good news is that suicide can be prevented. In many cases, the above-mentioned warning signs recognized as early as possible help offer non-judgmental, caring support on time. Here’s what you can do in regard to people who are likely to experience suicidal thoughts:
- Learn all the risk factors.
- Be alert to the signs of anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental disorders (Notice when the symptoms worsen!).
- When they talk – tune in.
- Recognize that the person you know is exhibiting warning signs for suicide.
- Ask a direct question if s/he is thinking about committing suicide.
- Be there to support and care.
The truth is that in some cases, people just need to know they’re not trapped and isolated, and there is someone who cares and is ready to help. With timely support from loving family members and friends who have access to support services, people are less likely to engage in the process of self-destruction.
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is the time to make a pause in the daily busy routine of life and look around a bit.
Check on those around you. Is there anyone in desperate need of some kind of help and living at risk? Everyone needs to try to dig deeper and see more. Watch for the signs of immediate danger. Take things seriously from those in crisis. Breaking down the barrier of the stigmas surrounding his highly taboo topic is critical to saving lives.