Suicide: Facts, Signs, and Myths
September is suicide awareness month. Suicide is a difficult, complex, and sensitive subject. It is difficult to talk about and navigate personally, with friends and with loved ones. Discussing facts, creating awareness and exposing the authentic struggles associated with suicide is an important dialogue I’d like to invite you into.
Let’s talk about the facts:
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health), each year, 41,000 individuals die from suicide.
The CDC states that suicide rates have risen by 30% since 1999.
What are the warning signs?
NAMI has indicated several warning signs associated with suicide:
Suicidal ideation is characterized by thoughts such as, “I wish I wasn’t here” or “This feels too difficult.” While these may appear harmless, they can evolve into dangerous and intentional actions.
Changes in mood swings; dramatic mood swings.
Aggressive, impulsive and reckless behavior
Social isolation, withdrawn behaviors from family, friends and community
If any person is demonstrating these behaviors, suicide risk may be especially high:
Extreme, dramatic mood shifts from despair to calm
Saying goodbye to friends and family
Planning and gathering items for suicide (prescription medication, firearms, sharp objects)
How do I talk about suicide to a friend? Debunking myths about suicide.
Society has developed many myths regarding suicide, creating a hesitancy to openly discuss it. It has colored our view of suicide in ways that may not be accurate. Let’s de-bunk a few myths together. Having an accurate view of suicide empowers us to confidently discuss it with loved ones. Below are a few common myths NAMI identified that seem prevalent in culture today.
Myth: If we talk about suicide, it will encourage others and lead others to suicide.
Truth: It is not uncommon for those who struggle with suicide to feel isolated and lonely, and they are often without healthy coping skills and social support. Talking about suicide reduces stigma, creating safe spaces for honesty. Talking about suicide normalizes this struggle and is an avenue to create hope and provide resources individuals may have otherwise not known about.
Myth: People who die by suicide are selfish, thinking of themselves. It is their easy way out.
Truth: People who die by suicide are deeply suffering. They want to live but living feels intolerable, due to suffering. Suicide is a result of a mental illness, it is not because they are “thinking of themselves” selfishly.
Myth: Suicides don’t have warning signs. They happen suddenly.
Truth: Refer to the warning signs above! Even when unrecognizable or not overt, most who die by suicide demonstrate some warning signs. Talking about suicide as a society can help highlight warning signs.
Myth: A suicidal individual will always be suicidal.
Fact: There is a difference between passive and active suicidal ideation. Passive ideation is fantasizing about the act of suicide, a general wish to not exist anymore. Active ideation includes planned intent. Those who are suicidal often have intense, active ideation for short periods of time. While the active ideation frequently does not exist long term, passive ideation may be more long lasting. 54% of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Treating the mental health disorder helps to treat the active suicidal ideation.
Myth: Only those who have mental health conditions are suicidal.
Fact: While mental health conditions play a significant factor in suicide as mentioned above, life stressors and difficult circumstances can influence an individual who otherwise may not have struggled with suicidal ideation.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, know you are not alone. If you know someone struggling with suicidal ideation, it can feel overwhelming knowing how to help them. Whether it is for you or a loved one, below is a list of resources to provide support.
Next week, we will have a blog dedicated to exploring further resources to combat suicide. Suicide must be taken seriously. In the meantime, if you or a loved one is struggling with suicide, consider these resources:
Call 911 immediately if you or someone you known is in an emergency.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Text the crisis text line. Text NAMI to 741-741 to talk to a free, trained counselor
This article gives practical ideas, tips and creative ideas to help those who feel isolated by suicide feel less alone.