With September being Suicide Prevention Month, as the Director of Behavioral Health here at Lyric Health this is the perfect and a poignant opportunity to address one of the most important issues facing our society today, suicide!
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates increased approximately 36% between 2000–2021. Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes. The number of people with suicidal ideation or who attempt suicide is even higher. For example, in 2021, an estimated 12.3 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.7 million attempted suicide. While suicide is among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. The situation is even more dire for young people as suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34. What is even more disconcerting is that we are seeing rising suicide rates among girls, Native American, Black and LGBTQ+ youth.
There are many causes of suicidal thinking and suicidal actions, including depression, schizophrenia, and other mental health issues. For adults, bereavement, loneliness, isolation, being abused, addiction and substance abuse, chronic pain, and access to legal means are among some of the reasons for suicidal thinking or actions. For younger people, bullying, prejudice, or stigma, such as relating to race, gender, disability, or sexual identity are likely culprits. Much attention is also being paid to social media and its sometimes negative impact on the mental health of youngsters. There are studies that have found a link between social media over use and a higher risk for suicide among adolescents and teens.
Other than making a deliberate statement of wanting to die or killing oneself, there are many obvious and less subtle signs of possible suicidal intent. They include making statements such as” I wish I wasn’t here.” Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live or being a burden to others. Giving away possessions or tying up loose ends. Cutting behaviors or other suicidal gestures can be a cry for help that should be listened to, but often are a precursor to a serious attempt or may inadvertently result in a serious injury or death. Therefore, any self-injurious behavior should be treated as a real or potential suicide attempt.
The good news is that there is much we can do to assist someone who may be suicidal. You can contact 911 if you believe someone is imminently suicidal, and they will be accompanied by EMS and police to an emergency room. 988 is the new suicide hotline number that offers a full range of supportive counseling and direction for anyone who is thinking about suicide with any kind of severity or seriousness. If you encounter someone, especially a family member or friend who is wrestling with suicidal thoughts, in addition to the aforementioned contact numbers, you can express your concern and willingness to listen. You should also ask questions to assess for risk including:
- Do you have a plan to end your life?
- Have you ever attempted suicide before (which is a clear danger sign for another attempt)?
- Do you have access to a weapon or means of suicide?
If you do believe the person is imminently suicidal, after calling 911, do not leave the person alone and involve others as necessary to watch them until help arrives.
But if nothing else, prevention is the key. So, anyone you know who may be depressed, sad, desperate, or suicidal, take them by the hand to a clinician or direct them to some other counseling or crisis source (many are online) and follow up on how they are doing.
Together we can bring down the statics on suicide and help our community live a healthier, happier, and safer life.