There’s no way to soften it, whether you’ve been personally touched by it or thru community exposure, suicide is a hard topic of conversation. How do we even begin to discuss such a sobering subject without becoming too scientific and sterile and balance the reflection with empathy and compassion? My answer is to speak on it through honesty, with respect and promoting education. First off, definitions: suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death.
It is a complex phenomenon in which different factors can contribute to a person becoming at high risk, including mental illness, depression, social isolation, pain or chronic illness, traumatic situations, and substance abuse, among others.
For some people who have never experienced depression or suicidal ideation (the formation of ideas or concepts of ending one’s own life, aka S.I.), it can be very difficult to understand why people would follow this action to fruition. However, as hard as it may be to imagine, suicide is a desperate attempt to stop feeling so much pain and what feels like unbearable suffering. Unfortunately, people who follow through with suicide find no other way to escape from this suffering or to alleviate it other than through
ending their lives.
It is important to note that suicide can affect anyone, regardless of race, religion, age, sex, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. However, it has been observed historically since suicide rates have been quantified, that the highest rates are found in adults between the ages of 45 and 54. As recent as 2020, suicide was the second-leading
cause of death among people ages 10-24 and 25-34. In addition to those who pass away from suicide, there are many more adolescents who have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide and survive. Youth suicidal ideation, attempt and completion are on the rise.
Identifying early warning signs and risk factors of someone who has suicidal thoughts is the first step in prevention. Get familiar with these signs and don’t be afraid to take action if you see a loved one experiencing the following:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Showing extreme mood swings
- Feelings of despair and loneliness
- History of depression or other mental disorders
- Having a serious illness and/or chronic pain
- Suffering from bullying
- Substance use or abuse
- Loss of significant relationships
- Experiencing financial, legal or criminal problems
- Being a victim of violence
- Participating in risky or dangerous activities
- Giving away their personal belongings or making a will
- Having a history of suicide in the family
- Previous suicide attempts
Suicide prevention should focus on individuals of all ages since anyone can be at risk of suicide regardless of their age and circumstances.
Measures to prevent suicide
It is possible to prevent suicide. Despite being such a complex situation, and although there is no single solution to prevent it, there are several actions that people and communities can take to lower the risks of completion. Some of these strategies include:
- Increasing access to mental health services. This can include giving talks about suicide to communities, as well as providing mental health resources such as therapy and medication.
- Support in crisis situations. Having hotlines that are in service 24/7/365 to deal with crisis situations and suicide risks. Also, having support centers where people in crisis can go in person when they need it most.
- The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8.
- Talking to our children, friends, and relatives about suicide. Talking about this topic can be difficult, but it is important to bring it up in an empathetic and compassionate way and have open and honest conversations.
- Promoting good mental health and removing the stigma of mental illness.
Removing a negative association with mental illness can help neighbors, relatives and friends who are struggling open up and talk to someone. Even more so, if you have doubts or suspicions that someone close to you may be having suicidal thoughts. It is best to ask directly, and to let the person express their feelings without judging. Showing someone that you care for them can help
greatly with prevention.
- Avoiding access to weapons, medicines, or anything that could be lethal to a person.
- Providing support to high-risk groups: such as people who have attempted suicide in the past, LGBTQ+ people, BIPOC folks, people with chronic illnesses, veterans, and immigrants, among others.
- Promoting social support: encouraging people to build strong, supportive relationships with family, friends, and community members can help reduce suicide risk.
It is important to note that treatment for suicidal ideation may include a combination of therapies, medications, and hospitalization, depending on the severity.
If you have thoughts of suicide or are currently experiencing a mental health crisis, call 9-1-1 and go to your nearest emergency room. Although AMR is not a crisis center, we can offer services to folks who have experience dealing with suicide in their families and communities.
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