Suicide impacts me personally – I am the survivor of a parent who committed suicide.
Any story of a life cut sort is a sad one, especially when life ends from suicide. In light of the recent celebrity suicides, a heightened awareness is in the news currently. However, beyond the awareness of these celebrity suicides, we must draw attention to the alarming rates of suicide as a major public health concern.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the US. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates (based on 2016 data) that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States. It is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the 4thleading cause among individuals between 35 and 54. Most interesting is that it has increased 28% during 1999 – 2016, with rates among males reported as 4 times higher than among females. However, that of white middle-aged females has increased 88% in the past 18 years.
This is a most personal issue to me.
My mother took her life when I was a teenager. It broke apart our already fragile family. She was one of those in the statistics: white middle age female, with depression and past attempts. After it happened, I too felt such despair that too I wanted to die. As unfortunate as it was to my family, it gives me a strength and resolve that I hold on to today, and helps me to teach this most important topic to the counselors in training and in the profession.
You don’t have to be a professional to intervene with someone who may be thinking about suicide.
What can you do? Three simple things: Ask; Listen and Look; and Act.
ASK. Ask the person directly if they are having thoughts or ideas, if they have a plan or if they have access to means to do so. Research shows that asking the question offers relief to the person. Questions like:
“Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
“Have you tried to hurt yourself before?”
“Have you thought of ways that you might hurt yourself or take your life?”
“Do you have pills, weapons, or other means to do so in your house?”
LISTEN AND LOOK for red flags for warning signs of suicidal behavior, using the mnemonic IS PATH WARM?
I. IDEATION – threatening or communicated.
S. SUBSTANCE ABUSE – increasing or excessive.
P. PURPOSELESS – no reasons for living.
A. ANXIETY – agitation, anxious, insomnia.
T. TRAPPED – feeling there is no way out
W. WITHDRAWING – from friends, family, others
A. ANGER - uncontrolled, rage, seeking revenge
R. RECKLESSNESS – risks behavior, unthinking
M. MOOD CHANGES
If you think someone might harm themselves, do not leave them alone.
Say “I’m going to get some help”
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-TALK. 1-800-273- 2285.
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Leading Causes of Death Reports, 1981 – 2016. February 2017. Information retrieved from
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Suicide is a Leading Cause of Death in the United States. May 2018. Information retrieved from
SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Suicide Prevention Efforts. https://www.samhsa.gov/suicide-prevention/samhsas-efforts