Every one of us has a role to play in preventing suicide. Whether it’s befriending someone who seems depressed, recognizing the warning signs in a family member, or advocating for suicide prevention programs and hotlines, each of us has a responsibility to our fellow man.
The World Health Organization estimates that a million people die each year from suicide, In the U.S., suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, claiming nearly 45,000 lives each year. Suicide is a major public health concern, yet it is a topic that’s often discussed in vague terms and whispers.
It’s time to start talking about suicide in the same way we talk about breast cancer or heart disease. To shout it out: Suicide IS NOT INEVITABLE. There is something you can do. One is to know local resources available. Bluegrass.org operates a 24-Hour Helpline for crisis and suicide prevention 1.800.928.8000 and Bluegrass Prevention Center provides suicide prevention services and information to the community, call 859.225.3296.
But first, it’s important to peel back the layers of misconception that come between those who could help and those that need help.
Myth: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore indirect or casual references to death or suicide.
Myth: Only crazy people kill themselves.
Fact: Most suicidal people are not mentally ill. They may be upset, grief-stricken, depressed, lonely, in pain or in despair, but these conditions, in and of themselves, are not mental illness.
Myth: There’s nothing you can do to stop someone who is truly intent on killing themselves.
Fact: Most people who commit or attempt suicide don’t really want to die. They want to stop the pain they are experiencing and are unable to see any other way out. The desire to kill oneself does not last forever. Talking can help them find a living way out.
Myth: Asking someone if they are considering harming themselves may cause them to commit suicide.
Fact: Someone who is suicidal isn’t spurred into the action by a friend or family member asking them about it. In fact, talking opening about suicide is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Recognize the warning signs of suicide
Like many other illnesses, suicide has warning signs. If someone you know exhibits these signs, especially if they are new, have increased in frequency, or seem related to a painful event, loss or change, seek help by calling the 24-hour Bluegrass helpline at 1-800-928-8000:
• 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
Risk factors to know
You know the risk factors for cancer, heart disease and stroke. Do you know the risk factors for suicide? Here they are:
• Mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
• Alcohol and other substance use disorders
• 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
• Local clusters of suicide
• 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)
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 you can take to help others. Remember, 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.
Bluegrass Prevention Center is dedicated to preventing suicide. If you would like to know more about how Bluegrass Prevention Center can talk to your group and provide suicide prevention information and services, please call 859.225.3296. We exist to help children, adults and families live their best life. Call the 24-hour helpline at 1-800-928-8000 for questions and support.