If I asked you to name the signs of an individual thinking about suicide, could you name them? If someone you know was contemplating suicide, would you know how to get them help? Would you know how to save their life?
I recently asked a group of friends these very questions and they all stared at me with a blank look in their eyes. They had no idea. Next, I asked them, “How could you potentially prevent a car crash?” Without hesitation, they immediately threw out answers such as, “Don’t drink and drive,” “Wear your seatbelt,” “Don’t text while driving,” and “Drive the speed limit.” Not all of these tips are absolute, unfortunately, but each of these individuals had been educated enough to know how they could drive a little safer. There are even catchy little phrases we all know such as “Click it or ticket” or the newer, “Drive sober or get pulled over.”
In the U.S. in 2017, there were 40,100 car accident fatalities. That number is horrible and tragic and so so scary. Our government, law enforcement, and PSA’s are doing everything they can to help Americans drive safer and stay alive. There’s a number even scarier in the USA and not many are taking notice. 47,173. That’s the number of suicide deaths we had in this country in 2017. More than car accident fatalities! Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our country behind heart disease, cancer, and strokes. It’s more than double the rate of homicide!
When it comes to preventing some of the leading causes of death, we know to eat a balanced diet, conduct routine health check-ups with our doctors, and memorize the signs of a stroke and heart attack. We even get trained in CPR so we could intervene in an emergency situation. We are all educated on how to stay safe and potentially save a life…until it comes to suicide. With suicide, we just resort back to “I don’t know anyone who would ever kill themselves.” Well, about every 11-12 minutes in this country a person dies by suicide. Statistically, you will know someone who dies by suicide and, unfortunately, it may be sooner than you think.
Did you know the average life span for Americans just decreased and suicide is the cause? It is incredibly tragic and yet I bet most people still can’t name the signs of suicide. Why is that? There are many people and organizations in this country trying to educate our citizens on the signs of suicide and, yet, most people still can’t name them. Those who have lost a loved one to suicide consider it a passion project to educate the rest of the world so that nobody else will experience this same pain and yet, here we are…rarely can someone name the signs of suicide. Why is that?
It breaks my heart to see much of the world is decreasing their suicide rates and the United States continues to increase. There are so many people doing great things to spread suicide awareness throughout this country and I fear it falls on deaf ears. I do not understand why.
So, here is my challenge to you….read the signs below and memorize them like your life depends on it. Or, better yet, your loved one’s life depends on it. Get familiar with them and if you notice them in a friend or relative, ask them about it. You can say, “You seem overwhelmed with everything that is going on. Sometimes when people feel that overwhelmed and hopeless, they think suicide is their only solution. I’m curious if you are thinking about killing yourself?” People fear if they bring up the idea of suicide, they will be giving the other person the idea. It’s not true. You will actually be giving them the opportunity to talk about their pain and hopelessness. Then, once you have familiarized yourself with these signs, share them with a friend or relative. You never know whose life you might be saving!
And, if you are thinking about suicide, there is no shame in reaching out for help. I encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-273-8255 and talk to them. They can also give you a list of resources in your area that can help you in a crisis. It’s not weak to ask for help. In fact, it takes a lot of courage to do so. If the phone feels like it weighs 500 pounds and you are unable to to pick it up and talk, you can also text 741741 for free crisis counseling. Please, reach out.
Thanks to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for providing this great list of signs and risk factors. I encourage you to check out their site for more knowledge and support:
If a person talks about:
- Killing themselves
- Feeling hopeless
- Having no reason to live
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Unbearable pain
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
- Loss of interest
- Relief/Sudden Improvement
- Mental health conditions
- Substance use problems
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality traits of aggression, mood changes and poor relationships
- Conduct disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Serious physical health conditions including pain
- Traumatic brain injury
- Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
- Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
- Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss
- Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
- Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma