Spotting Suicidal Behavior
Guest Post by Adrienne Erin
Globally, over one million people commit suicide every year, resulting in an average of one suicide every 40 seconds. Women make suicide attempts three times more than men, but male suicide attempts are four times more likely to prove fatal.
Learning to recognize early signs of suicidal behavior can prevent tragedy. While none of the following signs guarantee a person is suicidal, they suggest the need for concern and need to be taken seriously.
Mental Illness and Substance Abuse
Mental health plays a large role in most suicides. Clinical depression and other mental disorders are factors in over 90 percent of suicides. The risk increases even more when substance abuse occurs in combination with a mental disorder.
Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. A person experiencing depression may exhibit signs of deep sadness, despair or hopelessness. He or she may lose interest in activities usually found enjoyable and withdraw from social contact. Disruptions to sleeping and eating habits are common, and the person may have difficulty thinking or concentrating.
Personal History and Suicide
A family history of suicide or mental disorders increases a person’s risk of suicidal behavior. Family violence, sexual and physical abuse, chronic pain and illness may also trigger suicide.
Knowing someone who committed suicide also increases the risk, as it makes the possibility of killing yourself seem more attainable.
Highly publicized suicides of famous figures can cause what doctors refer to as “suicide contagion,” a rash of suicides in the aftermath of the famous person’s death. One of the most famous occurrences of this was after the death of Marilyn Monroe; in the month after her death there were 200 more suicides than average.
The most important risk factor, however, is a previous suicide attempt. Between 20 to 50 percent of people who commit suicide made an earlier attempt.
Personal Warning Signs
People thinking about or planning suicide may exhibit any of the following behaviors:
• Constantly talking or thinking about death or suicide
• Saying they feel useless, helpless or worthless
• Taking dangerous, unnecessary risks
• Tying up loose ends, updating wills and generally “putting affairs in order”
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
In addition, a sudden emotional shift from despair and sadness to calmness or apparent happiness may indicate an individual has made the mental commitment to suicide.
Access to Deadly Items
Easy access to pills, rope, knives, or firearms increases suicide risk. People exhibiting suicidal behavior should be isolated from any means of ending their own life. Doing so can be tricky. While concerned people might lock up knives, prescription meds and firearms, they may neglect garden sheds, where a suicidal person has access to sharp tools, fertilizers and other materials. Even common household cleaners and yard products can also be used as poison. Because a person determined to end their own life can be desperate and creative, it is best to stay with the person at all times and encourage them to get help.
Taking Steps to Prevent Suicide
If you suspect someone is suicidal, take the situation seriously. If possible, talk with the individual, and be sure to listen attentively. Don’t be judgmental or try to talk them out of suicide. Instead let them know you care and want to help them through this bad time. Avoid trite statements like “it’s not that bad” or “you’ve got a lot to live for.” As far as the suicidal person is concerned, these statements simply are not true. Instead, focus on specific problems and solutions.
Encourage the individual to seek medical attention or to call a suicide hotline. If, you think the person is in imminent danger of suicide, keep him or her under observation, remove any dangerous items or drugs from the vicinity, and call for emergency medical assistance.
Adrienne Erin is a freelance writer and blogger interested in self-growth and happiness. She writes pieces on a variety of topics, from health to yard mosquito repellent.
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The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice. This site should not be used in place of professional medical care. The author is not a physician or medical professional.