Suicide. It’s a tragic topic no one wants to think about, yet it affects everyone. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34.
The reasons for the high rates of suicide in the U.S. are varied. Some researchers point to the stress and social isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Others suggest opioid use and social media are to blame.
Whatever the causes, awareness is key to preventing suicide. If you’re concerned about a friend, coworker or family member, here are some warning signs to look out for.
Warning signs alone don’t mean a person will attempt suicide, but they are important to be aware of. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline lists these red flags:
- Talking about wanting to commit suicide
- Looking for ways to commit suicide, such as purchasing a gun or researching suicide methods online
- Saying they have no reason to live
- Saying they are in pain
- Saying they are a burden to their loved ones
- Using alcohol or drugs to excess
- Behaving recklessly
- Sleeping excessively or not enough
- Talking about wanting revenge
- Having extreme mood swings
Five steps to suicide prevention
Fortunately, suicide is preventable. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline reports that for every person who dies by suicide, 316 consider suicide but don’t attempt it.
The lifeline says taking these five actions can help prevent suicide:
- Ask if the person is considering suicide. Talking about suicide may seem counterproductive, but it can provide relief and diminish suicidal ideation.
- Listen. When you listen without judging, you offer an outlet for negative feelings. Suicidal individuals with close friends who listen tend to feel less depressed, calmer and more hopeful.
- Keep them safe. Studies have found that removing lethal means of self-harm can reduce suicide rates. When a person has a detailed plan and that plan is interrupted, they often do not proceed with the suicide.
- Connect them to resources. Exploring means of support together can feel less daunting than doing it alone. Ask if they’re seeing a mental health professional and suggest resources like the 988 lifeline. It also helps to create a safety plan with crisis contacts.
- Stay in touch. Following up with the person demonstrates you support and care about them. In fact, research shows regular, supportive contact reduces suicide rates.
Be the one to help
By educating yourself about suicide and taking these five steps, you can help a loved one in pain. For more information, visit the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline’s suicide prevention website, #bethe1to.com.