Suicide Prevention Month
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Suicide is a public health problem that has serious and lasting effects on families, individuals, and communities. Focusing on prevention means working to reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience. It was reported that in 2021 there were an estimated 12.3 million adults that seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million that made a plan, and 1.7 million attempted suicide. Suicide rates have risen to 36% higher than in 2000. In 2020, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death overall in the United States resulting in 45,900 lost lives. It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress and should not be ignored (CDC, 2023).
Suicide is when someone harms themselves with the goal of ending their life and die as a result. Suicide attempt is when someone harms themselves with the goal of ending their life, but do not die as a result. It is important to be aware of the language that is used when discussing suicide or suicide attempt and not use language that can carry negative meanings such as “successful suicide” or “failed suicide.” There are a few things to consider when you feel someone may be having thoughts of suicide including warning signs, risk factors, and protective factors. Warning signs are things to look out for when you notice changes with your loved one and possibly puts them in danger to act on those suicidal thoughts. Risk factors are indicators that someone may be at heightened risk, but do not necessarily indicate imminent risk. Protective factors are things that are present that may reduce the likelihood that your loved one will act on suicidal thoughts (NIIMH, 2023).
Some warning signs to be aware of when someone may be at immediate risk for attempting suicide can include:
· Talking about wanting to end their life or wanting to die
· Expressing hopelessness or feelings of emptiness. This can include reporting no reasons to live
· Talking about feeling stuck, trapped, or like there are no solutions or options
· Reporting unbearable pain, both physical and/or emotional
· Talking about being a burden to people around them
· Withdrawing or isolating from family or friends
· Giving away possessions especially important or sentimental possessions
· Saying goodbye to friends and family
· Getting affairs in order or unexpectedly making a will.
· High risk behaviors that could lead to death
· Thinking and talking about death often
· Extreme mood swings or sudden change from sadness and hopelessness to being calm and happy with no cause for the change
· Making a plan to end their lives such as searching for ways on the internet, obtaining a gun unexpectedly, or stockpiling pills
· Strong feelings of guilt and shame
· Alcohol or drug use increases
· Increased agitation or anxiety
· Significant changes I eating or sleeping habits
· Seeking revenge or increase in thoughts to harm others
There are certain things that are considered risk factors which may someone more vulnerable to having thoughts of suicide:
· Depression or other mental health related disorder
· Previous suicidal thoughts or attempts
· Stigma around seeking help
· Substance Use disorders
· Chronic pain
· Family history of substance use or mental health disorders
· Family history of suicide
· Family violence (physical or sexual abuse)
· Access to lethal means such as guns
· Recently released from the hospital for mental health concerns, release from prison or jail
· Exposure by family, peers, or others suicidal behavior
While many people have risk factors, most will not attempt suicide. It can be difficult who will act on suicidal thoughts. Those who show warning signs listed above are at a higher risk.
There are also things to consider around what may reduce the risk of suicide and those are considered protective factors.
Contacts with providers (such as, follow-up phone call from health care professional).
Effective mental health care; easy access to a variety of clinical interventions.
Feelings of strong connections to individuals, family, community and social institutions.
Strong sense of cultural identity.
Problem-solving and conflict resolution skills.
Are you concerned about someone in your life? It is important to not ignore these signs some helpful tips to support them are listed below.
1. ASK: It is not an easy question, but asking someone who is at risk if they are suicidal or having thoughts of suicide does not increase suicides or thoughts of suicide. Ask directly “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
2. Help them stay safe: It can be helpful to reduce their access to lethal items such as stock piled medications, guns or knives, or other means they have considered. This can help reduce the accessibility in moments where impulsivity or strong urges are present.
3. Be there: They may feel very alone and having someone around is letting them know that you care. Listen to them and what they are thinking and feeling.
4. Help connect them: There are resources like 988 and/or other suicide crisis lines. You can call or text 988. It is important to also let them know that finding a therapist and/or exploring psychiatric services could be helpful.
5. Follow up: When there is a crisis it is intense and becomes the focus and after the crisis sometimes it can feel like there is no one there after the crisis. It is important to follow up and let them know that you still care even when they are not in crisis
Seeking therapy is really important to help manage and overcome underlying issues.
There are many types of psychotherapies that have been helpful for individuals who has attempted suicide or are struggling with suicidal thoughts. Some evidenced based therapies are listed below.
· Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help learn new ways of dealing with stressful experiences. It can help recognize thought patterns and consider alternatives when thoughts of suicide arise.
· Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has been shown to reduce the rate of suicide in adults. A therapist trained in DBT can help individuals recognize when feelings and actions are disrupting their lives or when unhealthy patterns arise. A therapist can help the individual learn skills to cope and effectively manage thoughts and feelings in upsetting situations.
If you are searching for a therapist or counselor you can learn more about tips to starting therapy here or use a directory service where you can narrow your search based on types of therapy, insurance, location, etc.. Counselor directories to get started can include https://www.therapyden.com/ or mental health match.
If you are interested in connecting directly with Mindful Solutions you can reach out via email (email@example.com), phone (619-353-5139), or book your free 30 minute consultation on our website!
*Although I am a therapist by profession, I am not YOUR therapist. This article is for informational and educational purposes only, does not replace therapy and does not establish any kind of therapist-client relationship with me. I am not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information. To see more information about our disclamer(s): https://www.mindfulsolutionscorp.com/disclaimers