As a mental health professional, I work with individuals struggling with depression and suicidal thinking often. The fact is that nearly everyone at some point in his or her life thinks about suicide. Most everyone decides to live because they come to realize that the crisis is temporary, but death is not. On the other hand, people in the midst of a crisis often perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. Frequently, they:
- Can’t stop the pain they are experiencing in life
- Can’t think clearly
- Can’t make decisions
- Can’t see any way out
- Can’t sleep, eat, or work
- Feel stuck in depression
- Can’t make the sadness go away
- Can’t see the possibility of change
- Can’t see themselves as worthwhile
- Can’t get someone’s attention
- Can’t see beyond the depression to regain control of their lives
Are you or someone you love at risk of suicide?
Get help immediately by contacting a mental health professional (see resources below) or calling 1-800-273-8255 for a referral should you witness, hear, or see anyone exhibiting any one or more of the following:
- Someone threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking about wanting to hurt or kill him/herself.
- Someone looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means.
- Someone talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person.
- Someone is exhibiting the following warning signs.
Know the Warning Signs of Suicide
How do you remember the Warning Signs of Suicide? Here's an easy-to-remember mnemonic: IS PATH WARM?
I Ideation - Thinking about suicide and planning how to complete suicide
S Substance Abuse - Using substances (i.e., drugs, alcohol) to help cope with thoughts and/or emotions
P Purposelessness - Feeling as if there is no purpose to life or no reason for living
A Anxiety - Feeling anxious or "keyed up," feeling restless or agitated
T Trapped - Thinking or feeling that there is no way out, or that their is no other solution other than suicide
H Hopelessness - Feeling like nothing can or will change or imporve
W Withdrawal - Disconnecting from friends, family, and/or society
A Anger - Experiencing uncontrolled anger, rage, or seeking revenge
R Recklessness - Acting impulsively or without thinking, engaging in risky activities, acting reckless
M Mood Changes - Experiencing quick mood swings
Get the facts
- Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal individuals desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems.
- Most suicidal individuals give definite warnings of their suicidal intentions, but others are either unaware of the significance of these warnings or do not know how to respond to them.
- Talking about suicide does not cause someone to be suicidal.
- Approximately 41,100 Americans kill themselves every year. The number of suicide attempts is much greater and often results in serious injury.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24, and it is the tenth leading cause of death among all persons.
- Youth (15-24) suicide rates increased more than 200% from the 1950’s to the late 1970’s. Following the late 1970’s, the rates for youth suicide have remained stable.
- The suicide rate is higher among the elderly (over 65) than any other age group.
- 3.5 times as many men kill themselves as compared to women, yet three times as many women attempt suicide as compared to men.
- Suicide occurs across all age, economic, social, and ethnic boundaries.
- Firearms are currently the most utilized method of suicide by essentially all groups (male, female, young, old, white, non-white).
- Surviving family members not only suffer the trauma of losing a loved one to suicide, and may themselves be at higher risk for suicide and emotional problems.
Take appropriate action
- Be aware. Learn the warning signs.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.
- Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow for expression of feelings. Accept the Feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
- Don’t dare him/her to do it.
- Don’t give advice by making decisions for someone else to tell them to behave differently.
- Don’t ask ‘why’. This encourages defensiveness.
- Offer empathy, not sympathy.
- Don’t act shocked. This creates distance.
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available, do not offer glib reassurance; it only proves you don’t understand.
- Take action! Remove means! Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
Remember, you are not alone. Here are resources that you can reach out to for help and support if you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts:
- A community mental health agency
- A school counselor or psychologist
- A suicide prevention/crisis intervention center
- In Austin, Texas area:
- NAMI Austin
- Austin Travis County Psychiatric Emergency Services
- Travis County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) — 512-854-3445
- In Austin, Texas area:
- A private therapist
- A family physician
- A religious/spiritual leader
National Suicide prevention lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
For Veterans and Military:
- Call 1-800-273-TALK and press 1: Go to the Veterans Crisis Line home
- Text to 838255
- Veteran’s self-check quiz: Take the quiz
- Chat live 1-to-1 with a counselor: Veterans chat service
- Real Warriors. Real Battles. Real Strength. http://www.realwarriors.net/
- Treating the Invisible Wounds of War Series: Issues of Women Returning from Combat
- Treating the Invisible Wounds of War
For Teens and Young Adults:
- KUTO Kids Under 21: 1.888.644.5886 This is a suicide prevention organization promoting a program for Kids under 21 with a strong emphasis on peer education and support.
The Trevor Project 1.866.488.7386 The Trevor Projects is a 24-hour free and confidential crisis and suicide prevention helpline specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or questioning youth.
- It Gets Better
- American Association of Suicidology: Suicidal Behavior Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth Fact Sheet: http://www.suicidology.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=262&name=DLFE-594.pdf