Mental Health and the “S” Word

Most people don’t like to talk about suicide. It frightens us and it makes us uncomfortable. It’s something many really don’t understand, and when there’s a suicide in the family of someone we know, we can be unsure about what we should say, so we tend to say as little as possible.

But we can’t afford to ignore suicide. It happens way too much. The year is not even close to being half done, and our community has already lost too many people. Just ask our Coroner. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. It’s the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34. Even worse, the rate of suicide has increased every year since 2006, with nearly 1.3 million Americans attempting to kill themselves each year. It happens in all communities, across all ages, races, faiths, and economic groups. And it’s preventable.

Suicide is not a mental condition, but mental health is an important topic because mental illness is one of the major contributing factors. In particular, people who are suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse problems, and schizophrenia are far more likely to take their own lives.

Because more than one in five people who commit suicide had mentioned their plans to others, it’s important for all of us to recognize the risk factors and warning signs.

Risk factors are the characteristics that suggest someone is more likely than other people to commit suicide. The single biggest risk factor is a previous suicide attempt by an individual. Other major risk factors include a family history of suicide, mood-related disorders such as depression, significant losses (such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or financial problems), substance abuse, chronic pain or illness, a history of trauma or being abused, and having access to lethal means such as firearms.

Warning signs are actions or behaviors that suggest someone may be considering suicide in the immediate future. Examples include frequently talking or writing about death and suicide, making statements suggesting there’s no reason to live or that the world would be better if the person were dead, withdrawing from friends and familiar activities, comments about being hopeless or worthless, reckless or risky behavior, dramatic mood swings, and increases in substance abuse.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact us to set a time to talk with one of our professional counselors. We can help you or your loved explore those feelings and find more effective ways to deal with the underlying challenges. But please don’t delay. Everyone’s life is valuable and worthwhile. We’ll help you find hope.