If you or a loved one are considering death by suicide, there are many suicide prevention resources for you to seek help and overcome the present symptoms. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, andremains the top cause of death for people ages 10 to 34.
If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, you are not alone. By reaching out to a crisis line or trusted friend, you can take steps to meet with a caring mental health professional, like those at Nashville’s Integrative Life Center, who can help you address these thoughts and establish a plan of action and recovery. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of trauma and other risk factors, but they can be treated and improved over time.
Suicide Risk Factors
When risk factors are present for you or a loved one, it does not predict or cause a suicide attempt. But it makes it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. Friends, family, and caregivers should watch for risk factors and observe whether attitudes and behaviors change over time.
Common suicide risk factors include:
- Prior suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Substance use
- Mood disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia
- History of trauma or abuse
- Hopelessness, sense of isolation, and a lack of social support
- Impulsive and/or aggressive personality
- Recent release from prison or jail
- Lack of healthcare access for mental health and substance use treatment
- Access to lethal means, including firearms in the home
- Exposure to others who have died by suicide
- Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
- Life-changing events, including loss of job, financial status, relationship, death of a loved one, or feelings of failure
Suicide Warning Signs
You may be able to prevent yourself or others from attempting suicide when you know the warning signs. If someone tells you they’ve “lost the will to live” or “want to die,” don’t brush those comments off. Stop to consider if other warning signs are present. People sometimes use humor to veil pain. It’s vital to consider the whole picture rather than assume everything is OK. If concerning behaviors are new, increasing, or appear related to a painful event, loss, or change, consider them warning signs. Don’t wait to reach out for help.
Examples of suicide warning signs:
- Speaking about wanting to die or kill themselves
- Researching ways to kill themselves
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or having no will to live
- Talking about feeling trapped
- Feeling as if they burden others
- Increasing substance use
- Behaving recklessly
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Changes to sleeping and eating habits
- Isolating or withdrawing from obligations
- Dramatic mood changes
- Giving away important possessions and getting affairs in order
- Saying goodbye to others
How to Help Someone with Suicidal Thoughts
If someone you love shares that they have suicidal thoughts, it’s essential to remain calm but committed to helping them connect with a mental health professional. Express support and concern, withhold judgment, listen, and stay patient while connecting them to professional support.
Steps for helping someone with suicidal thoughts:
- Identify Warning Signs. Take notice if things are changing for your loved one and consider if they are coping well.
- Ask. Voice the difficult question and ask, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Research shows this question does not increase suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts but can act as a gateway for an important dialogue that can lead to help.
- Keep Them Safe. Remove potentially dangerous and lethal objects from their home.
- Be There. Listen without judgment to learn what they are thinking and feeling.
- Call a Doctor or Counselor. Encourage your loved one to reach out to their primary care physician or specialized mental health professional.
- Help Them Get Support. Share phone numbers for suicide or crisis hotlines and encourage your loved one to use them if needed.
- Stay Connected. Continue to check in on your loved one even after the crisis passes, or they complete treatment. They need to feel supported and know you care.
In An Emergency
If someone you know is in an emergency situation or attempts suicide, you need to render immediate help. Don’t hesitate to get immediate help if you think it’s necessary.
What to do if someone attempts suicide:
- Stay with them – do not leave them alone.
- Call 911. If you think you can do so safely, you may choose to take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
- Ask them if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Listen, but don’t try to handle the situation alone. Get help from a trained professional as quickly as possible.
Suicide Prevention Resources
Many people think about suicide throughout life, so it is vital to educate yourself and know how to see the signs in others. Many health and nonprofit organizations are devoted to sharing suicide prevention resources to empower others and decrease the prevalence of suicide.
Organizations with suicide prevention resources include:
- Mayo Clinic. Individuals with depression are at an increased risk for suicide. The Mayo Clinic’s guide for supporting a loved one includes information about identifying symptoms and warning signs, seeking treatment, and connecting with local resources.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness. It’s important to be calm when supporting a loved one in crisis. The National Alliance on Mental Health outlines best practices when responding in an emergency.
- To Write Love on Her Arms. The nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms shares messages of hope and help for those with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide and encourages them to seek treatment when necessary.
- THRIVE Lifeline. The free crisis text line, THRIVE Lifeline, for ages 18 and up, is staffed by certified suicide interventionists with marginalized identities who study or work in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.
Prevention resources for teenagers and their parents include:
- Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide. The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide offers specialized training programs and resources to teens, parents, and educational leaders while fulfilling its mission of increasing suicide awareness, saving lives, and reducing the stigma of suicide.
- The JED Foundation. The JED Foundation seeks to protect the emotional health of the nation’s teens and young adults by equipping them with the skills and support needed to flourish. More than 4.8 million young adults attended schools where JED programs are embedded to support mental health.
- Teen Health. From a pediatric hospital network, Teen Health helps parents and caregivers determine if their adolescent’s behavior is a phase or an indication that something more serious may be happening.
- THRIVE App. Designed by the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, THRIVE App helps parents and caregivers facilitate a conversation with teens and young adults on important health topics.
Every September, suicide prevention organizations work to increase awareness about suicide warning signs and available resources during Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day. Though it’s observed on a grand scale one month of the year, information and help are available 365 days a year.
How Integrative Life Center Can Help
If you or someone you love have suicidal thoughts, Integrative Life Center’s caring professionals can help you determine the best course of action, whether it’s with us or somewhere else. With numerous therapies and a Suicide Treatment Program, ILC’s trained team will identify an individualized care plan to help. To learn more, contact Integrative Life Center today.