- Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.
- Approximately 922,725 Americans attempt suicide each year.
- An estimated 4.73 million Americans are survivors of suicide of a friend, family member or loved one.
During National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 8-14) it is important to remember that suicide is preventable.
“If you know someone who is in an emotional crisis and thinking about suicide, it is imperative to talk to that person about how they are feeling at that moment. It is prevention and intervention occurring in the present,” said Ben Yamnitz, who manages the Crisis Center at Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois. “You want to keep the person safe and then work together to come up with ways, other than suicide, to alleviate that pain. There are always other options.”
Anyone can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if they are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that a loved one may be having thoughts of suicide. A trained mental health professional is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide guidance and resources that can help keep a suicidal individual safe.
Unfortunately many people aren’t comfortable talking about suicide. But that should not be a barrier if someone you know expresses thoughts of suicide or an inability to cope with life.
“Divorce, death of a loved one and loss of a job are examples of situations when some people might consider suicide as a viable option to end the pain they are experiencing,” Yamnitz said. “Any individual, regardless of age, race, or gender, may at some time encounter a point in their life when they believe that suicide is the answer to their problems. No one is immune from thoughts of suicide.”
Some behaviors that can be considered suicide warning signs include seeking isolation, increased substance use, giving away possessions and acting anxious or agitated and behaving recklessly.
People who are considering suicide might make statements such as “Things would be better if I were gone,” “I can’t take it anymore” and “I just don’t know what else to do.”
“These expressions demonstrate a person’s feeling that they have run out of options other than suicide,” Yamnitz said. “I believe the most direct and effective way to know if someone is at risk of suicide is to ask them. By doing so, it allows that barrier of stigma to be broken. They know that they are safe to talk about what they are feeling.
“Asking someone if they are considering suicide does not put the idea into their head or increase the chance of an attempt. This is why suicide is preventable. We can meet that person in the moment when they believe suicide is the only option and work with them to provide other options to keep them safe.”
The risk of suicide is higher in individuals who have a mental health diagnosis such as depression and schizophrenia. Yamnitz suggests that people seek help immediately if suicide is a concern.
“A mental health issue, like any health issue, can provide extra stress for an individual and in attempting to escape that stress they may view suicide as an option,” he said. “Symptoms of depression or a serious health condition such as cancer can affect a person’s judgment and affect how they view possible options for relieving that stress.”
For more information about suicide and crisis services available in central Illinois, visit MHCCI.org.