As we recognize National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, we are reminded of the startling statistics about the number of people who choose to end their own lives. Tragically, the World Health Organization estimates that approximately one million people die from suicide each year around the world. Here in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports suicide as the 10th leading cause of death.
The stats in Texas are even more alarming. Texas saw an overall increase in suicide mortality between 2021 to 2022, with the death rate rising 36.7 percent. Mental health professionals believe the COVID-19 pandemic affected suicide rates due to the impacts of social distancing, financial hardships, and critical illnesses, among other issues.
With these somber statistics, there is a chance you may face a point in your life where you are concerned about a friend or loved one who is at risk of suicide. That concern will likely cause significant distress and questions of how to respond.
Populations At Risk
Although anyone can be at risk of suicide, there are certain groups that are more vulnerable than others. Populations at risk include but are not limited to the elderly, teenagers, the LBGTQ community, and individuals with one or more mental health disorders. It’s important to be aware of the factors that affect communities at risk in order to establish a support system. For example, teenagers may be struggling with the pressure to succeed and fit in. The elderly may be struggling with finding a sense of purpose post-retirement. Individuals of the LGBTQ community may be struggling with discrimination and marginalization.
An individual will often demonstrate warning signs leading up to a suicide attempt. Common warning signs include talking about suicide, hopelessness, isolation, getting affairs in order, self-destructive behaviors, seeking ways to die, and changes in sleeping or eating habits. People considering suicide may make statements of hopelessness such as “I can’t live like this anymore”, “People would be better without me”, or “What’s the point?”
Speak Up If You Are Worried
You may be fearful that addressing a suicide concern will lead an individual to have thoughts and/or influence follow through. However, research indicates the opposite. Being open allows people to feel heard, supported, and often can begin the process of people at risk seeking mental health treatment. Simple questions or phrases such as “I have been concerned about you lately”, “How are you coping with what has been happening?”, and even asking, “Are you thinking about suicide?” can help in the process.
How To Respond
In the event of a friend or loved one being at risk of suicide, it is advised to not handle the situation alone. Engaging their family and friends can go a long way. As soon as possible, urge them to see a mental health provider, help find a treatment center, or take them to the doctor or an urgent care clinic. For support and advice, you can call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. There is also a Spanish Language phone line at 1-888-628-9454. If you feel a loved one is on the verge of committing suicide, do not leave the individual alone, remove objects that can cause harm, contact 911, and/or take them to the emergency room.
The Big Point
Death by suicide is a reality we face, but if addressed as soon as possible, can be prevented. Always take concerns from friends or loved ones seriously. You may worry about overreacting, however their safety is what is most important. You are not responsible for preventing suicide, but you can be supportive by finding necessary treatment.
If you or a loved one needs professional support in coping, contact Lone Star Circle of Care at 877-800-5722 to schedule an appointment with a therapist. You do not have to face this alone.
Blog post written by Austin Cannaday, LPC
Lone Star Circle of Care at Ben White – Behavioral Health
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