Suicide can be hard to talk about; it’s uncomfortable, scary, and a difficult topic to approach. This past September was National Suicide Prevention Month, a month that holds meaning to not only me but many people across the world as well. Whether you have struggled with suicidality yourself, or know someone who has, it can still be a hard concept to understand fully. This blog may be triggering, so please read with caution.
Suicide affects millions of people each and every year:
-On average, 123 Americans die every day by suicide, totaling up to around 44,965 deaths per year in the U.S. alone (CDC)
-Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the United States and the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 15-24 (CDC)
-Each year, approximately a quarter million people become survivors of a suicide attempt (AAS)
-There is one death by suicide every 40 seconds. By the time you finish reading this article, approximately 6 individuals will have lost their lives due to suicide
-There are about 800,000 deaths by suicide around the globe every year
Suicide doesn’t just affect young adults and teenagers. Children, adults, and even people over the age of 60 are affected by suicide as well. 1 in every 4 suicide attempts is successful in men and women aged 60-85. However, men 85 and older have a higher suicide rate than women. The suicide rate for women in this age range starts to decline around age 60. 1 out of every 65,000 suicide attempts in children aged 10-14 are successful. While men die by suicide 4 times more than women (CDC), females are more likely to have chronic suicidal thoughts (CDC). Women also attempt suicide 3 times as often as men do (CDC). There are 2 times as many deaths by suicide than deaths caused by HIV or AIDs and 1 out of every 65,000 suicide attempts in children aged 10-14 are successful. It’s important to know the warning signs of suicide and to reach out to someone as soon as possible. Some of the warning signs you should look out for in your family or friends are:
-Talking about death more than usual
-Talking about being a burden
-Extreme mood swings
-Increased or decreased amount of sleep
-Talking about feeling hopeless or helpless
-Increase in drug/alcohol or self-harm behaviors
Not everyone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts will show these exact warning signs, but these are some of the most common symptoms that are shown before a suicide attempt. If you or a friend/family member start to exhibit any other behaviors that could be reckless or dangerous that isn’t on the above list, it is still critical to reach out and take appropriate actions to keep you or your loved ones safe.
There are also risk factors to keep in mind as well. Misdiagnosed and untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. Some other risk factors include:
-Having a history of mental illnesses
-Having impulsive tendencies
-Having a physical or chronic illness
-Having had previous suicide attempts
Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community are also severely impacted by suicide. Adolescents in the LGBTQ+ community attempt suicide 3 times more often than heterosexual individuals (CDC). Those that come from a rejecting family household or community are also 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than members of the LGBTQ+ community that come from understanding homes (Family Acceptance Project).
Suicide has never been very easy to talk about, and it will always be a hard subject to approach but one way to open the conversation and help end the stigma around suicide is to start talking about it more. Sharing your story (or anything you’re comfortable sharing) is a great way to start a conversation with people in your community. Sharing your story may help others realize they’re not alone in their struggles. Knowing that there are other people out there that share the same struggles as you – maybe even someone you work with or go to school with – can help give you (and others) the courage to share the parts of your story that you’re ready to share.
As hard as it may seem, I have personally found that sharing the parts of the story I’m comfortable to share helped me feel less alone. I’m not ready to pour my whole heart out and tell every part of my struggle, but the more I talk and write about my past, the easier it gets to accept it. For me, a huge part of dealing with my mental illnesses and coping with my suicide attempts has been very hard to accept. It made it hard to reach out, and like many people who struggle with suicidality, I felt ashamed and too scared to ask for help and, in turn, have had several suicide attempts over the past five or so years. I still struggle with some of those feelings and thoughts sometimes, but I’m slowly starting to find ways to reach out and be more honest with myself and my support system. Trust me, it’s not easy, and most days I want to hide my feelings, but opening a line of communication with my family has provided opportunities to build trust in our relationships.
So my point is that, yes, it’s hard. It’s hard to talk about, and it will probably always be that way. But knowing the signs, the risk factors, and ways to help others in crisis could be a matter between life and death for those struggling. Sharing your story – however much you choose to share – can help not only yourself but other people, too. Talking about your struggles can feel like a weight off your shoulders. It’s not for everyone, and you may not want to talk about it. That’s okay. It’s your story, you can share as much or as little as you want to. Spreading love and care toward everyone is just one simple way to help people who are struggling.
Remember that the stigma surrounding suicide, and all other mental illnesses, won’t change with silence. Talking about these topics may be hard, but if they’re not talked about, they will continue to be stigmatized. The stigma around mental illnesses and suicide won’t change unless they are spoken about more. They need to be talked about openly and free of judgment. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to speak up and start a conversation about these subjects to encourage others to do the same as well. If you or someone you know is in a crisis, here are 3 ways to get help:
-Text “START” to 741-741
-Call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.8255
-Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room