Contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.
Warning Signs of a Suicidal Person
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, increasing approximately 36% between 2000–2021. Experts express that the numbers are part of an increasing national mental health crisis that was intensified by the covid pandemic. While technically not a medical condition, suicide is closely tied to numerous mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. In addition, those with substance abuse problems or compulsive addictions such as sex or gambling show a higher-than-average rate of suicide or attempted suicide.
Suicide affects people of all ages. In 2021, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34.
While no data supports that suicide has a genetic link, a history of mental illness is linked to genetics. This link between mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others can often explain why some families are affected by multiple members committing – or attempting – suicide. Very few suicide cases are documented in which the family or friends saw no warning signs. Individuals considering suicide often display telltale behaviors that – when recognized – could lead to successful suicide prevention.
Here are a few common signs that your loved one may have suicidal tendencies. Note: many of these are also general warning signs of mental illness.
- Talking about wanting to die, or how they’d kill themselves.
- Using language like “after I’m gone.”
- Talk of being a burden to others.
- Feeling trapped or as if they’re experiencing constant mental pain.
- Increasing use of drugs or alcohol.
- Behaving recklessly, anxious, or agitated.
- Changes in sleep patterns such as sleeping too much, or too little.
- Isolating themselves from friends or loved ones.
- Displaying extreme moody behavior.
- Talking about not having a reason to live.
- Feeling hopeless about the future.
Therapy to prevent suicide is essential in treating the core issues – often depression or other mental illnesses – and providing proof that the suicidal person has a reason to live.
Professionals often use the “SAD PERSONS” scale, which helps them to identify the risk of suicidal behavior. The SAD PERSONS scale is as follows:
- Previous suicide attempt or mental illness diagnosis
- Excessive drinking or alcohol abuse
- Rational thinking lost
- Separated, divorced, widowed
- Organized suicide plan or previous attempt
- No – or little – social support
- Sickness or chronic medical illness
While all talk of suicide is serious, this scale often identifies risk in those that haven’t previously vocalized their thoughts of suicide.
Therapy sessions and prescription medication – commonly antidepressants – are often the prescribed course of action to treat not only the thoughts of suicide but the root cause as well. In extreme cases, or those with past intent to commit suicide, the therapist may recommend the patient seek treatment in a 24-hour care facility. This way, they can better monitor mood and behavior patterns that the therapist can miss outside regular therapy sessions.
Why Hire a Therapist?
For people concerned about a friend, relative, or co-worker who may be at risk for suicide, there is a strong message of hope because there are now several effective treatments available to help suicidal people learn the skills to stay alive. These discoveries, paired with new outreach methods, have made many professionals increasingly optimistic about our ability to help save lives.
Due to the extreme nature of suicide, or any instance of self-harm, seeking help from a professional could make a huge difference in a person’s life. Suicidal thoughts are often the symptom of a much deeper issue, and only a mental health professional can accurately assess the situation and deal with the root cause. The symptoms don’t often manifest themselves just once; it’s an ongoing struggle that needs professional guidance to accurately evaluate risks and deal with each occurrence as they come up. Find a caring therapist near you by searching the TherapyTribe Directory.
What to Look for When Seeking Help
When looking for help, choosing a therapist you can trust and connect with is essential. To open up and accurately describe how you’re feeling, the causes of these feelings (if known), and any underlying mental health issues or stressors that could contribute. Most therapists have experience with depression and are well-versed in dealing with suicidal patients.
Almost every suicidal person is ambivalent about their suicide. What we can do as friends, relatives, co-workers, or acquaintances is reach out, show that we care, and help these people get the help they need to stay alive. There is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7, where people can call to get help (988). They have added an online chat feature as well. If you’ve lost someone, there are survivor resources to help you cope.
Click here to view a list of crisis helpline resources.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 8, 2023). Facts About Suicide. Retrieved July 31, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/
- Lea Winerman (2019, January). By the numbers: An alarming rise in suicide Suicide rates in the United States have increased substantially over the past two decades. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/numbers
- Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. (2013, September). Suicide Prevention: The Treatment that Works Getting suicidal individuals to the help they need. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201309/suicide-prevention-the-treatment-works
- Schreiber J, et al. (2018, October). Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search
- KFF Health News (2022, September): Suicide Rates Rise. Retrieved December 7, 2022, https://khn.org/morning-breakout/suicide-rates-rise-spotlighting-pandemics-mental-health-toll/