Suicide is the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). On average, nearly 45,000 Americans commit suicide per year, and for each death by suicide there are 25 other individuals who make unsuccessful attempts.
Often multiple factors are involved in causing a person to take his or her life, but mental health problems can play a large role. Depression, which is often undiagnosed and/or untreated, is a common mental health condition that can lead to suicide. Other potential issues include substance abuse problems, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and various conduct or anxiety disorders. According to the AFSP, of those who die by suicide, 90 percent have a mental disorder at the time of death.
Certain environmental factors also can play a role, such as abuse, bullying, harassment, loss of a job or relationship, divorce, death of a spouse, or a family history of suicide.
Warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide include the following:
• Wishing to die, or talking about dying
• Making statements that life is not worth living, that he or she is a burden to loved ones, or that his or her pain or anxiety is unbearable
• Talking about suicide, or researching or talking about methods of committing suicide
• Giving away prized possessions or saying goodbye to loved ones
• Withdrawing from activities or loved ones
• Increased use or abuse of alcohol or drugs
Experts in suicide prevention emphasize that most suicidal people don’t want to die—more accurately, they want their pain to cease. Importantly, 70 percent of those who commit suicide talk about it, tell someone what they’re thinking of doing, or display other warning signs before they act.
You should always take talk of suicide seriously. Experts agree that openly discussing suicide with a person does not put the idea in his or her head, and actually may be one of the best things you can do to help.
Learn the warning signs of suicide, and be sure to take action immediately when someone displays those signs. If you’re worried about yourself, a family member or friend, seek professional help right away.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Learn more at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.