September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.
Nearly 45,000 Americans committed suicide last year. The suicide rates among women are increasing more rapidly than among men, particularly women age 45-64, although more men commit suicide than women in the U.S.
Further, for every suicide, there are an estimated 25 unsuccessful suicide attempts.
There are several basic reasons why people commit suicide. Mental health issues are certainly one cause of suicide. Women also have increased risk at 3 key times of hormonal change: premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), when pregnant or have had a baby in the past year, and at menopause.
Other risk factors include being part of a marginalized group, LGBTQ for example, past sexual abuse, family history of suicide, and isolation, or not having a good support system, among others.
How would you even know if a close family member suffered from depression?
Sometimes the signs are subtle and others more noticeable. We have all had moments of frustration at home or work where perhaps we say “I’m so sick of this I could just kill myself”. One comment from someone who otherwise seems happy and balanced isn’t cause for alarm, but someone who has made statements about feeling trapped or hopeless, or who mentions suicide and methods of suicide, or has taken steps to “tie up loose ends” is quite possibly someone who is crying out for help. Other signs are increased or new use of drugs or alcohol, poor sleep, drastic mood changes, talk of seeking revenge and social withdrawal.
There are many things you can do to help if you see a friend or family member exhibiting these behaviors.
First, talk to them. Make sure you let them know you are a safe person to talk to. Listen to them without judgment and don’t dismiss what they are telling you with statements like “That doesn’t sound so bad”, or “These things are temporary”. Your loved one may just be going through a bad time, or they may have been struggling with undiagnosed depression for longer than you are aware. In that case, they may already feel hopeless. Reassure them you love them. Encourage them to get out and reconnect with a social group.
Encourage them to seek help, and provide them numbers to call, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Offer to help them find a counselor and offer to drive them to their appointments to make sure they go.
If you are the one who feels suicidal, or if you recognize that you have been exhibiting some of the above signs of suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or 911 if you feel you are in immediate danger of harming yourself.