Suicide is the tenth leading cause of American deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. In 2017, 47,173 people ended their lives, and another 1.3 million people are estimated to have attempted suicide. The actual rate of suicide is likely much higher, given that car accidents, overdoses, and drownings may fall into the category as well. Researchers are concerned that the rate of suicide is increasing over the last decade, and there is real urgency to understand what can be done to identify and support people with suicidal impulse. Here are some things you can do if you know someone in trouble.
Carol Povenmire, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist with a practice in Pasadena, California.
RECOGNIZE THE COMPLEXITY
NOTICE PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Increasing feelings of hopelessness
- Negative moods states (sadness, anger, anxiety, irritability) or rapid shifts in mood
- Feeling worthless, undeserving or like a burden
- Increasing feelings of helplessness, ineffectiveness or brokenness
- Impulsivity, agitation, or chronic anxiety
- Harsh beliefs about oneself and rigid (black or white) thinking
NOTICE BEHAVIORAL AND INTERPERSONAL FACTORS
- Withdrawal and social isolation
- Declining or erratic performance at work or in school
- Increasing use of alcohol or other intoxicants
- Risky behaviors (speeding, going home with strangers, etc.)
- Expressing the wish to not wake up, to have everything over with, or to die
- Angry or vengeful statements ("I'll show you!")
- Unusual good-byes or expressions of appreciation
- Making a will or giving away of possessions
- Stockpiling pills
BE AWARE OF HISTORY
- History of depressive episodes, bipolar disorder or substance abuse
- Previous suicide attempts or an escalation in a pattern of self-injury
- Family history of suicide
- Anniversary of significant loss or trauma, or a holiday (e.g. Mother's Day, Christmas)
- History of childhood neglect, abuse, trauma or bullying
RED FLAG: ACCESS TO GUNS
RED FLAG: INTERPERSONAL LOSS AND DESTABILIZING EVENTS
RED FLAG: RECENT DIAGNOSIS
RED FLAG: INCREASED ENERGY
RED FLAG: RECENT DISCHARGE
BE AWARE OF IMMINENT SIGNS
- Have they settled on a specific plan?
- If so, what is the method of that plan, and do they have the means available now?
- Have they chosen a time or date for that plan?
- Do they intend to carry out the plan?