Recognizing Suicide Risks & How to Get Help
Are you or someone you know in an emergency? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) or 911 right now.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and the counseling and mental health experts at LeBauer HealthCare want everyone in our area to understand the suicide warning signs and ways to help someone who is at risk. Especially this year, in the midst of so much upheaval, uncertainty, and causes for stress, anxiety, and depression, we need to be ready as a community to recognize and respond to the warning signs. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts — you’re not alone, and there is help waiting for you, right now.
Who is Most Likely to Be at Risk of Suicide?
Depression is one of the most frequent links to suicide. Many people don’t understand what depression is, or how severely it can affect someone. Depression is a serious, but treatable, medical illness that most often affects not only how someone feels, but also how they think, and the ways they act.
Sadness, as well as a loss of pleasure in what we once enjoyed, can signal depression. So can more outwardly visible symptoms, including significant changes in sleep patterns or your appetite. Suicidal thoughts are a common symptom for people who experience moderate to severe depression.
For all these reasons and more, it is extremely important to recognize and get help for depression early. Read more about depression and how it is distinct from grief or other kinds of sadness, as well as some ways depression can be treated.
While depression is a common risk factor for suicide, there can be many other conditions, circumstances, or factors which make someone particularly vulnerable to harming themselves. These can include:
- Mental disorders
- Substance abuse
- Chronic pain
- Being transgender or part of a sexual minority
- Keeping a firearm in the home
- Prior suicide attempts
- Being a veteran
- A family history of mental disorders, suicide, and violence, including sexual abuse
- Being released from prison (especially in the first two weeks)
What are the Signs that Someone is at Risk of Suicide?
The risk factors listed above could contribute to a wide range of signs that someone may be in danger. It is important to recognize that some people commit suicide without outwardly displaying any of the most common signs. On the other hand, however, people who talk about wanting to die or kill themselves are sometimes dismissed as simply or harmlessly “looking for attention.” In reality, this is one of the most common and critical signs of suicide risk and should always be taken seriously.
Trained medical and mental health professionals are available to care and treat those at risk of suicide. If we all are aware of what to look for, we can increase the odds of helping people in danger with the support and care that can help.
These are some common signs associated with higher suicide risk:
Wanting to die, harm themselves, or kill themselves
Intense shame and/or guilt
Feeling trapped, powerless, or without a solution to a significant problem
Being a burden to others
Pain that feels unbearable
Feeling hopeless, “empty,” or that they have no reason to keep living
Displaying these behaviors:
Buying a gun, stockpiling pills, researching ways to kill themselves
Using alcohol or drugs more frequently
Withdrawing from friends and family
Extreme mood swings
Saying goodbye to family and friends
Suddenly making a will or giving away things they formerly valued
Rage or taking revenge
The Best Ways to Help Someone at Risk of Suicide
Some of the signs might seem obvious, but it is devastatingly common for friends and family to miss even the clearest signs of distress, depression, and suicide risk and not intervene until it’s too late. It can be very difficult or awkward to approach and engage with a friend, family member, loved one, or co-worker that you suspect might be at risk. However, statistics about suicide rates show rising trends in recent years. The likelihood that suicide risk will be an issue for you or someone you know in the course of your life is increasingly likely.
In the United States alone, 45,390 adults died from suicide in 2017, including 6,139 U.S. veterans. The World Health Organization reports that nearly 800,000 people die from suicide, worldwide, each year. And, for each person that dies from suicide, they estimate that as many as 20 other people attempt suicide.
Any of us can be the one to:
Be caring and compassionate, but ask someone directly: “Are you okay? I care about you — and I want to know if you’re having suicidal thoughts or struggling with wanting to harm yourself. Are you?”
Listening without judgment to how someone is feeling and what they are thinking is so important.
Keep Them Safe
Removing or reducing the means of doing lethal harm shows a statistical decline in suicide frequency.
Help Them Stay Connected
Beyond initially identifying or confirming that someone is at risk, you can work to help them find a network of support and create connections that will help them in the long-term.
This is especially important for long-term support after an individual is discharged from a hospital or short-term care services.
That’s what you’re doing now! Share this article through social media channels. Learn more about these five steps, explore other resources, and find ways to help spread the word and support the #BeThe1To campaign.
One of the most important things all of us can do together is to continue to work against the stigmas and social shaming that are still connected to all forms of mental illness, especially depression. These are things we should acknowledge and talk more about, not less.
Counseling Support in the Piedmont Triad Region
LeBauer HealthCare offers comprehensive counseling services to families and individuals as young as 3. In addition to our in-person counseling, we are currently offering virtual visit alternatives for new and existing patients. Our work is patient-centered and problem-specific, and we want to help you or a loved one connect with professional support and treatment that will address the problem.
A LeBauer Healthcare clinician is ready to offer you more information about our services. Choose a location that is convenient for you, and call today. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please fill out our online form or call 336-547-1574.