Things to know about suicide
Suicide risk factors
- Depression, mental illness, and substance abuse. Mental illness, including depression, is associated with 90% of suicides. Alcohol and drug use, which clouds judgment, lowers inhibitions, and worsens depression, are associated with 50-67% of suicides.
- Aggression and fighting. Suicide is associated with fighting for both males and females, across all ethnic groups, and in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
- Home and community environment. Lack of family cohesion, violence and conflict, lack of parental support, and alienation in the family are associated with suicide. More youth are growing up without meaningful connections with adults, and therefore are not getting the guidance they need to help them cope with their daily lives.
- School environment. Youth who are struggling with classes, perceive their teachers as not understanding them or caring about them, or have poor relationships with their peers have increased vulnerability.
- Previous attempts. Youth who have attempted suicide are eight times more likely to make another suicide attempt.
- Cultural factors. Changes in gender roles and expectations, issues of conformity and assimilation, and feelings of isolation and victimization can all increase the stress levels and vulnerability of individuals. Additionally, in some cultures suicide may be seen as a rational response to shame.
- Family stresses. A history of mental illness and suicide among immediate family members place youth at greater risk for suicide. Changes in family structure such as death, divorce, remarriage, moving to a new city, and financial instability can also be factors.
- Self-injury. Self-harming behaviors are becoming increasingly common among youth, especially females. Because most self-mutilation behaviors are not suicide attempts, it is important to be cautious when reaching out to the youth and not to make assumptions.
- Situational crises. About 40% of youth suicides are associated with an identifiable precipitating event, such as the death of a loved one, loss of a valued relationship, parental divorce, or sexual abuse. Typically, these events coincide with other risk factors.
Suicide warning signs
Suicide warning signs include suicide threats, depression, anger, increased irritability, lack of interest, sudden changes in appetite or appearance, dwindling grades, preoccupation with death and suicide, and making final arrangements such as giving away prized possessions or telling family and friends goodbye.
Source: The Jason Foundation
What to do if someone is suicidal
- Ask the person directly about his or her feelings. Listen to what the person has to say, and take it seriously. Just talking to someone who really cares can make a big difference.
- If you’re still concerned, share your concerns with a teacher, guidance counselor, someone at church, someone at a local youth center or another responsible adult.
- Offer support. Encourage the person to call a suicide hotline number. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.
- Encourage the person to seek treatment. If the person doesn’t want to consult a doctor or mental health provider, suggest finding help from a support group, crisis center, faith community, teacher or other trusted person.
- Offer to help the person take steps to get assistance and support. For example, you can research treatment options, make phone calls and review insurance benefit information, or even offer to go with the person to an appointment.
- Encourage the person to communicate with you. Listen attentively and avoid interrupting. Be respectful. Not respecting how the person feels can shut down communication.
- Never promise to keep someone’s suicidal feelings a secret. Be understanding, but explain that you may not be able to keep such a promise if you think the person’s life is in danger. At that point, you have to get help.
- Offer reassurance. Reassure the person that with appropriate treatment, he or she can develop other ways to cope and can feel better about life again.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Last modified Oct. 3, 2019