By Candace Schoner
No one wants to talk about suicide, yet it is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. Despite society’s progress in talking more about mental illness, suicide still remains highly stigmatized.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 1.4 million adults attempt suicide each year.
“Many factors contribute to suicide among those with and without known mental health conditions,” states the CDC. Other causes may include relationship problems, a crisis or trauma, and substance abuse.
Psychologists agree that the lack of access to mental health services along with the stigma attached to suicide prevents many people from receiving the help they need. Oftentimes, after a death by suicide, loved one’s, friends, and colleagues are left wondering how they could have missed the warning signs.
Warning Signs of Suicide
The most common signs that a person may be contemplating suicide are:
- Withdrawing from friends, family and community
- Talking or writing about death or suicide
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness
- Exhibiting frequent mood changes
- Saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out.”
- Misusing alcohol or other drugs
- Participating in risky behaviors
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Giving away items of personal value
According to Dr. Nadine Kaslow, 2014 President of the American Psychological Association, psychologists are developing evidenced-based treatments for people of all ages with suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Kaslow believes the advancements in technology, such as mental health apps, are helpful in the fight to end suicide. In addition to talk therapy, she encourages other therapists to have their clients download these apps on their smartphones or tablets. These apps are especially helpful for millennials and younger who frequently use technology for everything from ordering take out to getting a college degree.
People who are experiencing chronic suicidal ideation and behavior may benefit from psychotherapy. However, when individuals are at risk of suicide it is essential that they receive immediate help, such as hospitalization or intense in-patient or out-patient treatment.
Once an individual is no longer in crisis, therapy is recommended to treat the underlying causes of suicidal thoughts or behavior. In most cases, this includes
examining ways to resist self-harm (if the person engaged in self-harming behavior), and create coping strategies to address suicidal thoughts.
In addition to seeing a therapist on a regular basis, individuals with suicidal thoughts should also have primary care doctor to oversee the patient’s treatment. While antidepressants are often prescribed to patient’s with suicidal ideation, some antidepressants may actually increase the risk of suicidal behavior.
Signs of suicidal behavior should be taken seriously, and those who have suicidal thoughts or know someone who is experiencing suicidal ideation should call or text the crisis hotline 988. This number will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and to trained counselors as part of the Lifeline network.
Suicide Risk Factors, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Suicide & Self Harm Injury Data, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fact Sheet: Suicide Rising Across the U.S. (.pdf), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018