Staff note: September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. More than 41,000 individuals take their own lives per year according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Despite the severity of this issue, it is considered a taboo topic. Talking more openly and learning to recognize the signs of mental illness are important steps in making a positive change and decreasing the number of lives lost.
In June of 2018, the deaths by suicide of two high-profile celebrities garnered substantial attention. Within days of each other, fashion designer Kate Spade and television host and author Anthony Bourdain took their own lives.
The deaths of Spade and Bourdain prompted many to inquire about suicide, its causes and if there are any signs that might help them identify if a loved one is having suicidal thoughts. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, no single thing causes suicide. The AFSP notes that suicide is most often a byproduct of the convergence of stressors and health issues that, when coupled, create a sense of hopelessness and despair.
Depression and anxiety are two conditions most commonly associated with suicide. But the AFSP notes that most people who have been diagnosed with these conditions and actively manage them go on to engage in life.
Undiagnosed depressionand anxiety, as well as undiagnosed or unaddressed substance abuse, increase a person’s risk for suicide. That’s why it’s so important for men, women and young people to learn to recognize warning signs for suicide and put themselves in position to promptly address their own issues or those of a loved one.
The AFSP notes that people who take their own lives may speak about doing so prior to committing suicide. People should seek help if they or a loved one talks about feeling hopeless, having no reason to live or being a burden to others. People who speak of feeling trapped or feeling unbearable pain also may be exhibiting warning signs of suicide.
Behavior, especially behavior that can be linked to a painful event, loss or change, is another potential indicator that a person is having suicidal thoughts. Such behaviors include:
· Increased use of alcohol or drugs
· Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
· Withdrawing from activities
· Isolating from family and friends
· Sleeping too much or too little
· Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
· Giving away prized possessions
Mood also is a potential indicator that a person might be having suicidal thoughts. In addition to depression and anxiety, people who are considering taking their own lives may exhibit a loss of interest in things they once enjoyed. Irritability, humiliation, agitation/anger, and relief/sudden improvement are other moods the AFSP notes may be warning signs for suicide.
The deaths of two highly regarded celebrities brought suicide to the forefront in 2018. Taking the time to understand suicide and its warning signs can help people prevent tragedies. More information is available at www.afsp.org. People who are in crisis or suspect a loved one may be in crisis are urged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.