Even one suicide is one too many
Nearly 10 million U.S. adults seriously considered suicide in 2015, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
While this overall number has stayed fairly consistent for the past several years, the report indicates that the number of young adults ages 18-25 with suicidal thoughts is increasing, as is the number of young women who are attempting to take their own lives.
In the U.S., the number of successful suicides has climbed significantly – rising 27 percent since 2000, according to the SAMHSA. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with more than 42,000 people dying by their own hand each year.
“People may consider suicide when they feel hopeless and cannot see any other solution to their problems,” says Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn, an Advocate Medical Group psychologist at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Bloomington-Normal, Ill. “Often, suicide is related to depression, addiction, trauma, a significant loss or any major stressful event.”
The SAMHSA report bears this out, finding that those who drink heavily or abuse drugs are more than twice as likely to seriously contemplate suicide compared to others without these addictions. Depression was also cited as a major factor – researchers found that 30 percent of the adults dealing with depression in 2015 considered suicide.
In another sobering statistic, the report found that only around half of the individuals who considered suicide or acted on suicidal thoughts sought out counseling or mental health treatment.
“There is help for people who are suicidal,” says Dr. Woodburn. “Anyone who expresses thoughts, plans or intentions about suicide should be taken seriously.”
Since individuals contemplating suicide may be reluctant to seek help on their own, Dr. Woodburn recommends paying attention to warning signs, such as:
- Frequent talk or writing of suicide, death or dying
- Expressions of hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness
- A significant loss, or problems at work or school
- Changes in behavior or personality
- Acts of “putting affairs in order”
- Alcohol/drug abuse
- Changes in sleep patterns
“If you know someone who has some of the risk factors and is exhibiting some of the warning signs of suicide, ask directly and compassionately if that individual is thinking about suicide, if he/she has a plan, if he/she is willing to seek help,” says Dr. Woodburn.
She adds that individuals who are considering suicide can get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or by calling 9-1-1 or visiting the closest hospital emergency department.
“Therapy and medications, as well as other interventions, can help most people who have suicidal thoughts,” she says. “Even one suicide is one suicide too many.”
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