Know the Suicide Risk Factors
Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They can’t cause or predict a suicide attempt, but they’re important to be aware of.
- Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
- Alcohol and other substance use disorders
- Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
- History of trauma or abuse
- Major physical illnesses
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Job or financial loss
- Loss of relationship(s)
- Easy access to lethal means
- Local clusters of suicide
- Lack of social support and sense of isolation
- Stigma associated with asking for help
- Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
- Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
- Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and the Internet)
Know the Warning Signs
Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
Should I Call The Lifeline?
No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the Lifeline.
People call to talk about lots of things: substance abuse, economic worries, relationships, sexual identity, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and loneliness, to name a few.
What Happens When I Call The Lifeline?
First, you’ll hear a message telling you that you’ve reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We’ll play you a little hold music while we connect you. A skilled, trained crisis worker who works at the Lifeline network crisis center closest to you will answer the phone. This person will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and share any resources that may be helpful.
Suicide Ideation (thoughts of suicide)
In most cases, suicidal ideation is believed to be the start of suicidal planning and action.Many individuals will initially deny these thoughts for a variety of reasons including:
- The shame that is associated with symptoms of a mental disorder;
- Fear of being judged negatively;
- Loss of control over the situation; and
- Fear of overreaction and involuntary hospitalizationSome signs and symptoms include profound social withdrawal, irrational thinking, paranoia, insomnia, depression, agitation, anxiety, irritability, despair, shame, humiliation, disgrace, anger, and rage.There is a myth that asking about suicidal ideation increases the likelihood of the person to engage in the behaviors – not true. In fact, most patients report a sense of relief and support when a caring, person non-judgmentally expresses interest in their pain.
What to do
Here are some ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide or engaging in suicidal behaviors:
- Be aware – learn the risk factors and warning signs for suicide and where to get help
- Be direct – talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide
- Be willing to listen – allow expression of feelings
- Be non-judgmental – don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
- Be available – show interest, understanding, and support
- Don’t “dare” the person to engage in suicidal behaviors.
- Don’t act shocked
- Don’t ask “why”
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy
- Do – offer hope that alternatives are available
- Take action – remove lethal means of self-harm such as pills, weapons, and alcohol
- Get immediate help from others with more experience and expertise
- Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a mental health professional
Suicide Information Web Sites:
American Association of Suicidology
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. The Lifeline is comprised of a national network of over 160 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.
If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. It’s important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support yourself.
Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.
Evidence shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm, and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.
By offering immediate counseling to everyone that may need it, local crisis centers provide invaluable support at critical times and connect individuals to local services
I met Patty Overland at her home in Berkeley, California. At the age of 19, she became physically disabled as a result of her suicide attempt. Now 59, she is an LGBTQ and disability rights advocate. Here, she talks about being a survivor and the power and unity to be found in sharing our stories.
And, for the first time (thanks to Kickstarter backers), below Patty’s interview, be sure to check out some video I made of her performing a poem she wrote in 1986 called “Super Crip Girl.”
I decided I’d like to tell my story because… Besides the initial shock of somebody saying, “How’d you get in that wheelchair?” and I tell them, and they go, “Why did you do that?” People think they can just say that. So I’m supposed to do, like I just did, a brief thing about my adolescence, and then somehow they’re gonna understand it? It’s like, “No, no, it’s a very invasive sort of a question…”
I think it’s important for me to tell my story because people survive all kinds of things. People survive rapes. They survive car accidents that are also violent. In a way, my friends born disabled don’t consider this, but to me, I feel like they are survivors too, being born disabled. ‘Cause they’ve had to go through the whole experience of their life as disabled people, and so they’ve had to put up with all the attitudes about that.
I think it’s even more important now, with the suicide bombings back there in New York and then what I’ve seen of people jumping off the Golden Gate out here on the west coast. What I’ve seen coast to coast, if a person is a survivor, it’s important that people should know that.
And people that know me know that, and maybe they’ll know more from your project. But when I’ve hung out at the White Horse Bar, the local gay bar, I’ve met survivors there that are lesbians. It’s mostly a men’s bar but women started going there. The minute I tell them, they’re like, “Oh, I am too.” And somebody else will say, “Oh, I am too.”
If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Pablo Escobar is a 29-year-old Master’s student, researcher, and dog owner. He has dealt with self-injurious behaviors for many years and attempted suicide five years ago.
People tell me all the time, “Your suicide [attempt]—it’s not really serious, it’s not that big of a deal,” which, to me, seems kind of weird. I don’t think it was extreme, like, violently, but I think the intention was definitely really real, and the fear was real. I remember at one point thinking like, ‘This is the last thing I’m gonna see and then I’m dead, and this is how I’m gonna feel and then I’m gonna die.’ It was not pleasant.
We have this belief that the more aggressive and the more violent and the more destructive it sounds, the more serious of an attempt it was… But, I mean, an attempt is an attempt. No one’s pain and no one’s suffering and no one’s desire to do that is less than someone else’s, you know, and they all deserve some sort of recognition and aide.
How I stopped it – I just kind of, one day, went through everything and I thought, ‘Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Do you want to be this person that… at the end of the day, no one is out there trying to hurt you. You are the only one who is hurting yourself. You are the only one hitting yourself. You are the only one cutting yourself. Do you really want that?’
And I was like, ‘No, I don’t.’
One, I don’t want to explain. Sometimes, you know, if it was down a little more on my arm it had been visible, and I don’t want anyone to see that. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to walk around wearing long-sleeved shirts. I didn’t want to walk around the bloody nose or bruised all over, you know?
So, I just kind of thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. This is my goal. I don’t want to do it. How am I gonna start it?’
The way I deal with stuff is I try to stay active by exercising, doing stuff, and also re-wording everything. For some reason that kind of works for me. If things seem bad or if I’m all of a sudden I’m starting to get really down and I want to do something, I just breathe, you know, take a deep breath and just kind of…
Like, before, for example, I would say, “I’m worthless because blah, blah, blah.”
Now it would be like, “Okay, you feel worthless.”
It’s just getting into the habit of recognizing it and then putting the brakes on it. And you just kind of keep doing that.