Approximately every 11 minutes someone in the U.S. chooses to take their life. This equates to about 47,500 U.S. residents per year who die by suicide. There is no doubt that suicide has become a growing concern that needs to be addressed. With the help of studies and support systems there are ways that we can do our best to prevent suicide in those we interact with. Below are some ways that you can do your part in helping to prevent suicide.
Know the Risk Factors
The reasons for suicide are numerous and complex but it is important to know the factors that indicate an individual is more likely to have suicidal thoughts or to attempt suicide.
Some common risk factors include:
previous suicide attempt(s)
drug and/or alcohol abuse
mental disorders including mood, anxiety, and personality disorders
access to lethal means
chronic disease or illness
having a loved one who died by suicide
A complete list of risk factors can be found on the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
Know the Warning Signs
Warning signs are more urgent than risk factors because this puts an individual at a greater risk for suicide. Often these warning signs are brought about by a big change, loss, or event in an individual's life.
Major warning signs to be aware of include:
talking about wanting to kill themselves
looking at ways to kill themselves
talking about and feeling hopelessness
withdrawing or isolating themselves from others
showing rage and/or seeking revenge
talking about feeling trapped and/or being in major pain
an increase of alcohol and/or drug use
reckless behavior and getting anxious or agitated
sleeping too much or sleeping too little
These warning signs require help which can be found by calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Loving family support is vital in preventing suicide. Families provide an environment where life skills can be developed. They can also provide love, support, and encouragement to each other as they nurture their relationships.
More specifically, when parents are greatly involved in their children's lives and are a great support to them, the children are likely to have lower depression levels. It has also been found that this type of involved parental support is associated with a lower chance of a suicide attempt.
Another type of family support is communication. It involves listening and discussing with one another while also keeping an open mind about the other's viewpoints. It means that you don't assume what someone is saying or draw to conclusions too quickly, but rather listen and ask questions if you do not understand something. Truly showing love in conversations you have with your family is important in building trust and an environment of support.
Communication is also vital in keeping the family bonded to one another. Talking about mental health, suicide, and even suicide attempts are essential for keeping healthy family relationships. It allows family members to be of support to one another in cases where one or more members are in need of assistance. Simply talking about tough topics such as mental health and other related topics regularly helps create a sense of trust between family members in which they can depend on each other when times get difficult. It also allows the family members to have an idea of how they will respond in difficult times because they have talked about these kinds of things in advance.
Family support also involves actions, not just words. These actions can range anywhere from going with them to a counseling appointment, to calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or simply sitting down with them in a moment of despair. Even something as simply as your presence can go a long way. After all, support usually doesn't mean big and grand gestures, but rather little things every day. This type involves consistency and truly caring, which can help carry people through the toughest of times.
Of course not all families are perfect. Some family situations actually do the opposite by making suicide risk higher. A rise in suicide risk is often associated with child abuse, homelessness, and even some dysfunctional relationships within family relationships. These types of families make it quite difficult for its members to stay mentally well. Therefore, just as knowing suicide risk is important, it is equally important to keep in mind family situations that may put individuals in a high risk category for suicide.
Mental Health Care
Currently, many places in the U.S. have a shortage of mental health professionals that can help those who suffer from suicidal thoughts or actions. In fact, over 115 million people live in an area where there is a shortage of professionals. This usually means that you have to wait days to weeks in order to meet with a therapist. Although some prioritize patients in order of urgency, this is not always a guarantee.
One option may be reaching out to your primary care physician. The physician can usually send a referral to a therapist who may be able to get you in quickly in cases of emergencies.
Another option is contacting a care or crisis facility in your community that specializes in this field. Although these types of organizations are relatively new, more and more are emerging in communities across the States. Getting familiar with these resources now can be of benefit to you down the road when you or someone you know needs help. Resources in the Rexburg area are listed under the tab "Help Sources".
These four ways to prevent suicide are only some of the many ways suicide can be prevented. More and more resources are becoming available to families, individuals, and others who want to help those suffering from suicidal tendencies. I urge you to look for resources and organizations in your community because you never know when you may need to utilize these resources at a moment's notice.
Dvoskin, J. (2014). Suicide is a complex problem, but it can be prevented. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/advocacy/suicide-prevention/testimony.
GoodTherapy. (2020). Is there a shortage of mental health professionals in America? GoodTherapy. https://www.goodtherapy.org/for-professionals/personal-development/become-a-therapist/is-there-shortage-of-mental-health-professionals-in-america.
LeCloux, M., Maramaldi, P., Thomas, K., & Wharff, E. (2016). Family Support and Mental Health Service Use Among Suicidal Adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(8), 2597–2606. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0417-6
We can all prevent suicide. Suicide Prevention Lifeline. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide/.
UD Cooperative Extension. (n.d.). Communication skills for you and your Family. Communication skills for you and your family | Cooperative Extension | University of Delaware. Retrieved September 17, 2021, from https://www.udel.edu/academics/colleges/canr/cooperative-extension/fact-sheets/comunications-skills-your-family/.
Widom, C. S., & Li, X. (2020). The role of psychiatric symptoms and environmental vulnerability factors in explaining the relationship between child maltreatment and suicidality: A prospective investigation. Journal of Affective Disorders, 276, 720–731. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.06.039