Understanding Suicide & How to Prevent It
According to Statistics Canada, “Suicide is a major cause of premature and preventable death.” In fact, at last count, the rate was 11.5 suicides per 100,000 people. But just knowing the statistics doesn’t save lives. The only way to reduce these numbers is to actively help people at risk by identifying warning signs and getting them the proper help.
Why Does Someone Commit Suicide?
According to Psychology Today, there are six reasons why someone chooses to end their own life:
- Depression — Depression is a mental illness in which there is sometimes no logical explanation. Someone who suffers from clinical depression may feel that they just want to end their suffering or that the world would be better off without them.
- Psychosis — Psychosis involves voices in someone’s head, often telling them to inflict harm on themselves or others.
- Impulse — Impulsive behavior such as drugs and alcohol abuse can sometimes lead a person to attempt to take their life in a moment of despair.
- Desire for Help — Often, a person who is suicidal truly wants help, but they don’t know how to ask. These people sometimes attempt suicide hoping someone will find them before they die.
- Terminal Illness — Some people who are terminally ill make the choice to gain control over their situation and end their lives prematurely.
- Accident — For example, toying with activities such as oxygen deprivation that can bring someone to the brink of death often goes too far.
Warning Signs of Suicide
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the most obvious warning signs for suicide is the complete change of behavior or addition of new behaviors in a person. And a person may express those behaviors in many different ways. For example, they might start talking about suicide and mortality, having no reason to live, or being a burden to those around them. They may also exhibit signs of increased alcohol or drug abuse, isolating themselves, or giving away possessions. It’s important to know the warning signs and when to start asking questions.
The Link Between Substance Abuse and Suicide
According to Psychiatric Times, “Individuals with a substance use disorder (ie, either a diagnosis of abuse or dependence on alcohol or drugs) are almost 6 times more likely to report a lifetime suicide attempt than those without a substance use disorder.” Not only do those who abuse drugs and alcohol tend to exhibit violent behavior toward others at some point, they also express violence toward themselves. In fact, it is extremely common for people with these issues to commit a violent act at some point in their lives and to frequently have suicidal thoughts.
What to Do When You Recognize the Signs
There are three important steps you should take when you recognize any signs of suicidal thoughts in someone you know. First, be direct and simply ask them if they are thinking of committing suicide. Most people actually do want help and you may be surprised at how honest their answer will be. Second, listen without judgement and do not leave them alone until you can get help. And thirdly, call a suicide crisis line to get them the help that they need.
Suicidal thoughts are nothing to take lightly, and even someone who continues to joke about such things could be crying out for help. If someone close to you is struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, you need to be especially vigilant in keeping the lines of communication open and letting them know they can trust you and that you are there to help. Since many people exhibit warning signs before carrying out the actual act, there is a good chance you can help prevent it by simply being observant. Don’t let the fear of uncomfortable conversations keep you from saving a life.
Written By Melissa Howard
Head of Prevention Outreach