Engaging young people in advocacy, education & prevention
Creating social change around alcohol, drugs, and more

We Can All Help to Prevent Suicide

September 13, 2018 7:15 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Someone in this country dies by suicide every 12 minutes, but suicide deaths are not inevitable. For every person who dies by suicide, 278 individuals think seriously about suicide but do not die. For some, the difference may be connecting with a compassionate, trained crisis center volunteer or staff member who is ready to help them when they need it most. In recognition of the need to provide immediate help to people in crisis, Congress recently passed the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act. This law requires several federal agencies to study and report on the feasibility of designating a new three-digit dialing code similar to 911 for mental health crises, which is great news for vital services like the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

 

FACTS ABOUT SUICIDE

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24.1
  • Males take their own lives at nearly four times the rate of females and represent 77.9% of all suicides.
  • Females are more likely than males to have suicidal thoughts.
  • About 2/3 of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths. Depression that is untreated, undiagnosed, or ineffectively treated is the number one cause of suicide.
  • People who have a dependence on alcohol or drugs in addition to being depressed are at greater risk for suicide.
  • Most suicidal people give definite warning signals of their suicidal intentions, but others are often unaware of the significance of these warnings or unsure what to do about them.
  • Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems.
  • Talking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal. It actually helps to talk about suicide, and the feelings and thoughts behind it.
  • Surviving family members not only suffer the loss of a loved one to suicide, but are also themselves at higher risk of suicide and emotional problems.
  • Peer support plays an important role in the treatment of mental and substance use disorders and holds a potential for helping those at risk for suicide.
  • LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.2
  • LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.2
  • Of all the suicide attempts made by youth, LGB youth suicide attempts were almost five times as likely to require medical treatment than those of heterosexual youth.2
  • In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.3
  • LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.4
  • 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) seriously considered suicide in the past year. [5]
  • Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.6

Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide.

Hope Can Happen

Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.

We Can All Take Action

Evidence shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm, and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.

Crisis Centers are Critical

By offering immediate counseling to everyone that may need it, local crisis centers provide invaluable support at critical times and connect individuals to local services.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s crisis center hotline service has been shown by research to be an effective, life-saving safety net for those in mental health crisis. While the Lifeline is a national program, the funds that sustain their network’s crisis centers come from state and local funders. Many of their network’s centers are struggling to find enough funding and resources to operate and grow.

When we support our local centers, the entire state reaps the benefits. Crisis centers are key components of county and state behavioral health systems, providing a safety net for those at serious risk, especially those with nowhere else to turn.

A crisis center is a facility where individuals going through personal crises can obtain help. In mental health and suicide prevention, a crisis center provides mental health services and emotional support services for their state or local communities. Most crisis centers are non-profit and many utilize trained volunteers as well as professionals.

Crisis centers are the ultimate “community mental health service,” as they usually serve the entire community, often at all hours and free of charge. Smaller centers serve a few thousand people each year, while others serve hundreds of thousands annually, depending on their community’s size and the strength of their funding sources. They are a also a vital resource to their community service systems by connecting callers to providers that exist to care for their needs.

Each crisis center offers its own set of services. All of those in the Lifeline network operate local helplines (beyond answering the national Lifeline), and many offer other crisis care services, such as text, chat or mobile outreach. Centers also provide training and educational resources in suicide prevention and wellness, sharing best practices and strengthening the safety net of their local community and the state as a whole.

“The Lifeline helped me see clearly the road toward the sunrise and I would like to remind others that if they need a map to find the light, too, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always here for you.”

How To Take Care Of Yourself

Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to let your friends, family, or teachers know what you need when they ask; they want to help. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time — calls are confidential.

Make a safety plan: A safety plan can help guide you through difficult moments and keep you safe.

Remember that this feeling can be overcome: Family conflict, relationships, grades, sexual identity, and the loss of important people can seem impossible to deal with. But with support from others, you can.

Evaluate the relationships in your life: Love and friendship are all about respect. Toxic or unhealthy relationships can negatively affect you. Whether you’re dating or building new friendships, remember your rights. If you’re being bullied, help is also available.

How To Help If Someone You Know is Contemplating Suicide

Take your loved one seriously: Some people feel that kids who say they are going to hurt or kill themselves are “just doing it for attention.” But if your child,  friend, or family member confides thoughts of suicide, believe them and get help.

Listen with empathy and provide support: A fight or breakup might not seem like a big deal, but for a young person it can feel immense. Sympathize and listen. Minimizing what your child or friend is going through can increase his or her sense of hopelessness.

Learn the warning signs: Friends sometimes let friends know if they are thinking about suicide or dying. Other times, changes in behavior may show that someone is struggling.

Don’t keep suicide a secret: If your friend is considering suicide, don’t promise to keep it a secret. Tell him or her you can help, but you need to involve other people, like a trusted adult. Neither of you have to face this alone.

 

Know the Risk Factors

Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They can’t cause or predict a suicide attempt, but they’re important to be aware of.

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship(s)
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

Know the Warning Signs

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline website has suicide prevention resources for youth, disaster survivors, LGBTQ folks, the deaf and hard of hearing community, Spanish speaking communities, and more. To learn more and to check out their extensive resources, visit Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

 

Sources:

[1] CDC, NCIPC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2010) {2013 Aug. 1}.  Available from:www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars.

[2] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[3] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

[4] Family Acceptance Project™. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics. 123(1), 346-52.

[5] CDC. (2016). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[6] IMPACT. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.