According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 105 people commit suicide each day, with thousands more attempting to take their lives. In 2010, it was the 10th leading cause of death for all age groups and the third leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24 years.
Who is at Risk?
Suicide affects everyone, but some groups are at higher risk than others. Men are about 4 times more likely than women to die from suicide. However, 3 times more women than men report attempting suicide. In addition, suicide rates are high among middle aged and older adults.
Several factors can put a person at risk for attempting or committing suicide. But, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur. Risk factors for suicide include:
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- History of depression or other mental illness
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Family history of suicide or violence
- Physical illness
- Feeling alone
What are the warning signs?
The following signs from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
How to Help Someone Who May be at Risk:
If you know someone who might be thinking of suicide, you can help them by listening. Very often people who think about suicide feel like they have no other options, like they have no control over their lives, and that no one cares about them. Keep in mind that talking with them about suicide will NOT put the idea into their minds. Often times, it is a great relief to someone that you have noticed that they are in pain and are willing to help.
- If the person is in imminent risk of hurting themselves, do not leave them alone. Call for help or 911.
- If this is not at a crisis stage, offer to sit and talk with the person and give them your full attention.
- Tell them that you care, there is hope, and that you are willing to help them.
- If the subject of suicide is hard to bring up, ask the question a little differently. For example, you could say “Do you sometimes feel so bad that you think of killing yourself?”
- Helping them realize that there are options other than suicide and that they do have some control over their lives may help them realize that suicide is not the only option.
- Try not to be judgmental, give advice, minimize their feelings, or solve their problems. You should never try to help a suicidal person by yourself. They need a lot of attention, support and a professional assessment.
- Do not agree to keep this a secret. This is a matter of life or death and you need to be able to get the person help.
According to the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention, protective factors are those personal, familial and interpersonal factors that contribute to a person’s ability to cope with life. Protective factors should be considered in assessing a person’s risk of suicide.
- Sense of humor
- Support network (family, friends, coaches, teachers, clergy)
- Good problem solving skills
- Ability to express emotions and ask for help
- Sense of hope and optimism
- “Survivor” mentality
- Good nutrition and regular exercise
- Sense of achievements/success/esteem/being needed
- Connectedness to family, community, church
- Being flexible
- Sense of purpose
- Having access to and knowledge of resources for help
- Cultural beliefs
Where to Get Help
- A counselor, therapist, or mental health clinic
- A family member or friend
- A teacher, guidance counselor, or coach
- Family doctor
- An emergency room
- Crisis help lines
- Crisis Text Line
- Find a Crisis Center
- Rhode Island Samaritans – (401) 272-4044 or (800) 365-4044
- Massachusetts Samaritans – 1–877-870‑4673
- Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention
- National Hopeline Network – 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
- National Institute for Mental Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide