National Suicide Prevention Week: How to Help Those at Risk


Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988 (or 800-273-8255) to get in touch with or visit a qualified advisor NSPL website.


suicide is a main cause of death In children and adults, it’s not easy to spot risk factors and warning signs.

This is National Suicide Prevention Week September 4-10 part Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 46,000 people died by suicide in the U.S. in 2020, or about 1 death every 11 minutes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

worldwide, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year, with 2020 1.2 million attempts globally.

Justin Baker, clinical director of the Ohio Veterans Suicide and Trauma Reduction Program, said researchers still haven’t figured out how to better predict who is at risk for suicide and whether or when vulnerable groups will commit suicide. center.

“It’s very, very difficult,” he said. “When someone tries or dies, you can look back and say, ‘Oh, look at all these things going on in their lives.’ The difficulty is that many people also deal with or experience these types of stressors, but never (Attempted suicide).”

Also, people don’t always take long to think about suicide and show signs – it can be as little as 5 to 15 minutes between a person’s decision to attempt suicide. Baker added.

“What we collectively understand is that this is an emotional dysregulation and an ongoing cognitive error,” Baker said. “They can’t deal with the situation, or they can’t think about it, so suicide becomes a viable option to deal with the pain they’re feeling. So they can act accordingly. A brief, brief window.

But in some cases, people who are suicidal and plan longer show behavioral changes, Baker added.

“If you pay attention to these things, it’s clearly someone who is really in imminent danger – someone who is really going to decide to take his own life,” he declared. “But I would say that most people don’t get that kind of warning. »

If you think you or someone you know is at risk, a trained counselor with the National 24/7 Suicide Prevention Lifeline can help you overcome any signs you feel or see. To increase accessibility, each state began rolling out the 988 as a new lifeline on July 16.The current phone number is 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), according to Addiction and Mental Health Services Administration.

Here are some of the most common behavioral, verbal and emotional signs and risk factors you should be aware of, according to experts.

Psychologist Michael Roeske says some people may look the same in the weeks or days before a suicide attempt, while others may show behavioral changes that don’t match what you know. Center for Healthcare Research and Innovation.

These may include practicing or preparing for suicide, which may appear to be the unusual act of using a firearm, pill or other life-threatening item, according to Sam Hasa.

According to Roeske, Baker and SAMHSA, other potential behavioral red flags include giving up valuables, sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing or isolating oneself, showing anger or a desire for revenge, and showing anxiety or agitation. A night of drunkenness or reckless driving can also be signs to look out for, Roeske said.

Baker said the behavior could be that they are “testing themselves to see if they can actually do it.” “A lot of times, people have to work towards this kind of practical attempt, because it’s a biological issue that you have to fight against, your own survival. »

Talking about wanting to die — suicide or otherwise — is another warning sign that should always be taken seriously, Rosk said. Such comments are sometimes just an expression of discomfort, pain, annoyance, or a desire to be close, rather than a reflection of a genuine desire to die, but that doesn’t mean you don’t look at the people who made them. he added.

Some people may say that they feel they have no reason to live. “If someone is having trouble finding a reason to live, they’re at a much higher risk than someone who can even identify[the cause],” Baker said.

Others say they feel like they are a burden to their loved ones, or feel like they don’t belong or belong to anyone, Rosk said. These comments can include “you don’t need me anymore” or “I think it would be better if I wasn’t there”. Teens considering suicide may not want their guardians to spend their money on college, he added.

Psychological factors, distressing circumstances, or genetic factors increase the likelihood that a person is considering suicide, attempted suicide, or suicide, According to SAMHSA. According to SAMHSA, these risk factors do not cause or predict suicide attempts, but it is important to be aware of them:

  • despair. “They don’t feel like the future is going to get better, or they really feel like they can’t imagine themselves not in pain,” Rosk said.
  • extreme mood swings. According to Roeske and Johns Hopkins Medicine. The person may decide to attempt suicide without telling anyone and they feel relieved. The good mood after a depressive episode is also evident.
  • Clinging to death or deadly means. Some people have more sinister artistic or musical interests than others, but it would be worrisome if their involvement in these things goes beyond their normal range, Rosk said.
  • Experiences of abuse, neglect or other trauma
  • Substance Abuse Problems
  • Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, or anxiety, as well as personality disorders, especially in the absence of treatment
  • Serious physical illness, including chronic pain. “Especially if it’s a little bit stubborn and hard to deal with, people get really desperate,” Rosk said. “It’s really just, ‘I don’t want to feel this way anymore, I can’t find any other way. I feel trapped.»
  • Family or personal history of suicide. “The biggest predictor of successful suicide is past suicide attempts — because you’re going to see an escalation in lethality, or the way someone does it,” Rosk said.
  • unemployment or economic loss
  • relationship problems or loss
  • Loss of interest in activities or school
  • Chronic stress from other causes, such as harassment or bullying
  • Easy access to potentially lethal means
  • Exposure to suicide or suicide graphics or sensational descriptions. “On the one hand, we don’t want people to shy away from the topic of suicide. We want people to approach and even use the word with others and have a discussion about it,” Rosk said. But if a show or narrative romanticizes or justifies the sense of relief that suicide can bring, there’s a problem.
  • Insufficient social support or a sense of isolation

If any of these signs resonate with you, seek professional help and talk to someone you can trust who will support you, Baker said. Psychotherapy and certain psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants, can help, Rosk said.

If a loved one is showing signs of a possible suicide risk, “it’s not your job to predict the future,” Baker said. But you can be supportive and intentional by asking them what happened, Roeske and Baker say.

“You don’t lead someone to suicide by directly asking questions about suicide,” Baker said. “The worst thing they’ll ever say is ‘no’, don’t get mad. If so, ask them anyway. I’d rather someone offend me than die.

When verifying someone, use what experts call a human-centred approach to storytelling, Baker recommends. This sounds like an open-ended question: “Hey, I’ve noticed that life has become overwhelming the past few days. Would you like to tell me?»

When the person responds, you can listen in a way that expresses your appreciation for them for sharing their story and offers to help them solve the problem together without offering advice on what to do with it. Baker said. But if your loved one seems to be at higher risk or is attempting suicide, “you will no longer have the time or luxury to have their say,” he adds. Seek medical attention or call 911.

He said when Roeske started working as a clinician he had a young patient who was a very accomplished equestrian who attended a prestigious school and had a great family, but she already had 10 to 15 years of chronic suicidal tendencies. a teenager.

“Every time she went to see her mother and said this to her, her mother (saying) ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful. Look at your relationship with the horse,'” Rosk said. “And (the patient) said, ‘I feel like mum is scared of what I’m saying and needs to get out of it.

She says therapists do the same — you know, “create a positive gratitude list or fix your cognitive distortions.” Finally, a psychiatrist looked at her and said, “I think I’m going to kill myself. Psychiatry The doctor said, “I think you can too. “She said it was the first time anyone had agreed to be with her.

When talking to someone who is suicidal, you might want to tell them all the wonderful reasons why they should be alive — but it can actually make them feel more alone, Roeske says.

If you’re concerned about someone in your home, reduce your chances of a suicide attempt by restricting access or removing potentially lethal items, such as guns or pills, Roeske said. Concealing a gun alone is not enough precaution, experts say.

Unfortunately, “we can’t predict who will die by suicide any better than who will die in a car accident,” Baker said. “This does nothing to relieve the grief or pain of those who have lost a loved one to suicide, but hopefully it will help remove some of the guilt and responsibility.” »

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