Suicide

Gain a better understanding of suicide by learning more about:

About Suicide  |  Risk Factors for Suicide  |  Suicide Crisis  |  Changes in Behavior  |  Facts about suicide  |  Substance Use Disorders – Facts  |  Alcohol-related Suicides  |  Other Substance Use Disorders  |  Common myths about suicide  |  Risk factors of suicide  |  Risk Factors for Suicide  |  Resources for suicide (links)  |  Help a friend with Suicidal thoughts  |  Seek Professional Help  |  Other Ways to Help

About Suicide

Suicide is the process of purposely ending one’s own life. There are many religious and social stigmas associated with suicide, but the effects of suicidal behavior or completed suicide are often devastating on family and friends.

Suicide is considered a public health problem in the United States as more than 32,000 people kill themselves each year and more than 395,000 people with self-inflicted injuries are treated in emergency rooms annually.

Suicide, by definition, is fatal, but those who attempt suicide and live may have serious injuries like broken bones, brain damage or organ failure. Also, persons who survive a suicide attempt often have depression and other mental health problems.

Suicide affects the whole community. Sixty percent of all people in the U.S. have experienced the suicide death of someone they know. Family and friends of people who die by suicide often feel shock, anger, guilt or depression. The medical costs and lost wages associated with suicide also take their toll on the community.

It is important to be aware of the risk factors for suicide and the signs and symptoms that a suicide crisis may be imminent.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call our helpline now!

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Risk Factors for Suicide

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the following have been identified as risk factors for suicide:

Psychiatric Disorders

At least 90 percent of persons who take their lives have a diagnosable, treatable psychiatric illness such as major depression, bipolar depression or some other depressive illness. This includes schizophrenia, alcohol or drug abuse (particularly when it is combined with depression), posttraumatic stress disorder or other anxiety disorders, bulimia or anorexia nervosa, and personality disorders (particularly borderline or antisocial).

Past History of Attempted Suicide

Between 20 and 50 percent of persons who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide.

Genetic Predisposition

Family history of suicide, suicide attempts, depression or other psychiatric illness increases the risk of suicide.

Neurotransmitters

A clear relationship has been established between low concentrations of specific serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain and an increased incidence of attempted and completed suicide in psychiatric patients.

Impulsivity

Persons who exhibit impulsive behavior are more likely to act on suicidal impulses.

Demographic factors such as age and sex

Men are three to five times more likely to commit suicide than women and elderly Caucasian males have the highest suicide rates.

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Suicide Crisis

What is a suicide crisis?

A suicide crisis is a time-limited occurrence that signals immediate danger of suicide. The signs of an impending crisis are:

Precipitating Event

A recent event that is particularly distressing such as loss of a loved one, career failure, financial crisis, etc. Sometimes the person’s behavior causes the event such as a man abusing his wife causing her to leave him.

Intense Affective State in Addition to Depression

This can be an acute sense of desperation, rage, abandonment, etc. which causes the person to feel a sense of urgency for relief from the pain.

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Changes in Behavior

Speech

Indicating the person is contemplating suicide, for example, “My family would be better off without me” or “I’m worth more to my family dead than alive.” Sometimes persons thinking about suicide will talk as if they are saying goodbye or going away.

Actions

Such as buying a gun, putting ones affairs in order or giving away possessions.

Deterioration in ability to function

Person may have difficulty functioning at work, socially, increase their use of alcohol or drugs and engage in other self-destructive behaviors.

The emotional crises that precede suicide are recognizable and treatable. While most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Early recognition and treatment of depression is key to helping to prevent suicide.

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Facts about suicide

The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a collaborative effort of government agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services offers the following facts about suicide:

Mental Illness and Suicide – Facts

  • Although the great majority of people who suffer from a mental illness do not die by suicide, having a mental illness does increase the likelihood of suicide compared to people who do not have one.
  • An estimated 2-15 % of persons who have been diagnosed with major depression die by suicide. Suicide risk is highest in depressed individuals who feel hopeless about the future, those who have just been discharged from the hospital, those who have a family history of suicide and those who have made a suicide attempt in the past.
  • An estimated 3-20% of persons who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder die by suicide. Hopelessness, recent hospital discharge, family history, and prior suicide attempts all raise the risk of suicide in these individuals.
  • An estimated 6-15% of persons diagnosed with schizophrenia die by suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of premature death in those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Between 75 and 95% of these individuals are male.
  • Also at high risk are individuals who suffer from depression at the same time as another mental illness. Specifically, the presence of substance abuse, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder put those with depression at greater risk for suicide.
  • People with personality disorders are approximately three times as likely to die by suicide than those without. Between 25 and 50% of these individuals also have a substance abuse disorder or major depressive disorder.
  • People who die by suicide are frequently suffering from undiagnosed, undertreated, or untreated depression.

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Substance Use Disorders – Facts

Suicide risk is increased by both legal and illicit substance use. Research has addressed the increased risk for particular substance use (e.g., alcohol), as well as multiple drug use. Substance use disorders as it is used here includes intoxication, binge drinking, withdrawal, as well as substance dependence and substance abuse. Substance use disorders and suicide occur more frequently among youth and adults, compared to older persons. For particular groups at risk, such as American Indians and Alaskan Natives, depression and alcohol use and abuse are the most common risk factors for completed suicide. Alcohol and substance abuse problems contribute to suicidal behavior in several ways. Persons who are dependent on substances often have a number of other risk factors for suicide (e.g., runaway and homeless youth). In addition to being depressed, they are also likely to have social and financial problems. Substance use disorders can be common among persons prone to be impulsive, and among persons who engage in many types of high-risk behaviors that result in self-harm.

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Alcohol-related Suicides

  • Between 40 and 60% of those who die by suicide are intoxicated at the time of death. An estimated 18-66% of those who die by suicide have some alcohol in their blood at the time of death.
  • An estimated 1-6% of individuals with alcohol dependency will die by suicide.
  • People who are addicted to alcohol are at higher risk if they also suffer from depression. At the time of death by suicide, 50-75% of alcohol-dependent individuals are suffering from depression.
  • Adolescents who die by suicide are more likely to use a firearm than another method if they have alcohol in their blood at the time of death.
  • Suicide rates among 18-20 year-olds were found to decrease among several states where the minimum legal drinking age was raised to 21.

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Other Substance Use Disorders

  • Intoxication by drugs or alcohol may increase suicide risk by decreasing inhibitions, increasing aggressiveness and impairing judgment. Additionally, substance use such as alcohol increases the lethality of some medications, making it more likely that a suicide attempt via overdose will be lethal.
  • Research suggests that adolescents who use marijuana and/or cigarettes are at increased risk of suicide. Studies have also found that as many as 20% of those who die by suicide have used cocaine in the days prior to death.

For more information about the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, visit http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/suicideprevention

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Common myths about suicide

Myth: “People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.”

Fact: Almost everyone who commits suicide has given some clue or warning. For every ten people who kill themselves, eight have given definite clues to their intentions. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” or “I can’t see any way out”, no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

Myth: “Anyone who tries to kill themselves must be crazy.”

Fact: Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed, or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.

Myth: “If a person is determined to kill themselves, nothing is going to stop them.”

Fact: Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

Myth: “People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”

Fact: Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help within six months before their deaths.

Myth: “Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”

Fact: You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true-bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Myth: “People who complete suicide always leave notes.”

Fact: Most people don’t leave notes.

Myth: “Most suicides occur during the holidays.”

Fact: Most suicides occur in the springtime, a time of renewal except for those who feel they have nothing to live for.

Myth: “Once a person has attempted suicide, he/she is unlikely to try again.”

Fact: People who have attempted suicide are very likely to try again. In fact, 80% of people who die by suicide have made at least one previous attempt.

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Risk factors of suicide

What is a suicide crisis?

A suicide crisis is a time-limited occurrence that signals immediate danger of suicide. The signs of an impending crisis are:

Precipitating Event

A recent event that is particularly distressing such as loss of a loved one, career failure, financial crisis, etc. Sometimes the person’s behavior causes the event such as a man abusing his wife causing her to leave him.

Intense Affective State in Addition to Depression

This can be an acute sense of desperation, rage, abandonment, etc. which causes the person to feel a sense of urgency for relief from the pain.

Changes in Behavior

  • Speech indicating the person is contemplating suicide, for example, “My family would be better off without me” or “I’m worth more to my family dead than alive.” Sometimes persons thinking about suicide will talk as if they are saying goodbye or going away.
  • Actions such as buying a gun, putting ones affairs in order or giving away possessions.
  • Deterioration in ability to function—person may have difficulty functioning at work, socially, increase their use of alcohol or drugs and engage in other self-destructive behaviors.

The emotional crises that precede suicide are recognizable and treatable. While most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Early recognition and treatment of depression is key to helping to prevent suicide.

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Risk Factors for Suicide

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the following have been identified as risk factors for suicide:

Psychiatric Disorders

At least 90 percent of persons who take their lives have a diagnosable, treatable psychiatric illness such as major depression, bipolar depression or some other depressive illness. This includes schizophrenia, alcohol or drug abuse (particularly when it is combined with depression), posttraumatic stress disorder or other anxiety disorders, bulimia or anorexia nervosa, and personality disorders (particularly borderline or antisocial).

Past History of Attempted Suicide

between 20 and 50 percent of persons who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide.

Genetic Predisposition

Family history of suicide, suicide attempts, depression or other psychiatric illness increases the risk of suicide.

Neurotransmitters

A clear relationship has been established between low concentrations of specific serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain and an increased incidence of attempted and completed suicide in psychiatric patients.

Impulsivity

Persons who exhibit impulsive behavior are more likely to act on suicidal impulses.

Demographic factors such as age and sex

Men are three to five times more likely to commit suicide than women and elderly Caucasian males have the highest suicide rates.

The emotional crises that precede suicide are recognizable and treatable. While most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Early recognition and treatment of depression is key to helping to prevent suicide.

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Resources for suicide (links)

National Strategy for Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

American Association of Suicidology

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

National Institute of Mental Health

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Help a friend with Suicidal thoughts:

Understanding and Helping the Suicidal Person

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, it is important to get the facts and take appropriate action.

Take It Seriously

Seventy-five percent of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. All suicide threats and attempts must be taken seriously.

Be Aware of the Warning Signs.

The American Association of Suicidology has developed an easy mnemonic to remember the warning signs:

IS PATH WARM?

Ideation – statements about suicide or wanting it to be over
Substance Abuse
Purposelessness – not important
Anxiety
Trapped – feeling
Hopelessness
Withdrawal or Isolation
Anger
Recklessness
Mood Changes – sudden

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Seek Professional Help

Seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or call our crisis helpline at 972-233-2233 for help should you witness, hear or see someone exhibiting the warning signs for suicide.

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Other Ways to Help

The American Association of Suicidology offers these tips for helping someone who is talking about suicide:

  • Talk openly, directly and matter-of-factly about suicide. It is a myth that talking about suicide will cause someone to attempt suicide.
  • Be willing to listen and accept expressions of feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved and show interest and support.
  • Never dare someone.
  • Don’t act shocked.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but don’t be glib.
  • Take action. Remove means such as guns or pills.
  • Call our crisis line at 972-233-2233 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for help.

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