FOR IMMEDIATE HELP, call or text 988 from anywhere in the United States
This September, we’d like to raise awareness about the issue of suicide and how to help prevent it – because it’s at epidemic levels in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate in the U.S. increased approximately 36 percent between 2000-2001. And in 2001, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34.
There are different reasons people die by suicide (although all of them have to do with mental health issues), but at its core, a person who takes their own life (or attempts to) has been experiencing an intense sense of hopelessness that life simply cannot get better – ever. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention if you or a loved one has been experiencing or showing signs of intense hopelessness.
A lot of people don’t want to admit when they’re feeling so hopeless, they see it as a sign of weakness, which it is not. There’s also the stigma of suicide, meaning, that some people, instead of feeling compassion for someone who has taken their own life, they judge those poor souls as being “selfish.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Studies have shown that people who have attempted suicide and were “unsuccessful,” in other words they (thankfully) lived to talk about what had ‘motivated’ them to try and end their lives in the first place, expressed that the kind of hopelessness that they were experiencing was something that the average person simply could not grasp; it’s not regular depression, it’s something leaps and bounds beyond that.
Which is why it’s so important to remember that just because you may not understand something at a visceral level, it shouldn’t prevent you from having compassion for someone who’s suffering. Think about it this way, it’s easy to have compassion for someone with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses; well, extreme depression is its own kind of life-threatening illness.
The good news is that there’s hope. As the Director of Clinical and Professional Affairs, Megan Russell, of Devereux Behavioral Health in Winter Park, Florida, said on www.devereux.org: “Research indicates that various protective factors can help prevent suicide – including strong family and community bonds, and access to effective medical and clinical care – so it’s important to know the risk factors and warning signs.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other experts, some of these warning signs include:
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Increase use of alcohol or drugs
- Giving away possessions
- Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Great guilt or shame
- Being a burden to others
- Eating or sleeping more or less
If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, please get help from a mental health professional in your area as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has increased recently. And for immediate help, call or text 988 from anywhere in the United States; it is a national suicide prevention helpline and according to NAMI, “by contacting 988, a person will receive compassionate, accessible care and support from a trained counselor when they or a loved one are experiencing mental health-related distress—whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis or any other kind of emotional distress.”
When in doubt, please call!