Suicide is probably the most difficult to discuss issue in mental health, yet it is all-too-common. According to the CDC, more than 41,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. each year, and it is the 10th leading cause of death for American adults. When someone is suicidal, loved ones grapple with feeling responsible for the person’s emotional state and physical safety. Family and friends struggle with what to do and what to say, fearful that just bringing up the topic might put thoughts of suicide into someone’s head. In fact, statistics show that asking people about their suicidal thoughts and feelings does not make them more likely to attempt or commit suicide. Finding out about someone’s suicidal thoughts could even be the first step in getting them the help they need.
An important component of suicide is ideation—thoughts about ending one’s life. Ideation can include fleeting thoughts as well as more developed thoughts, like planning. There are a number of risk factors for suicide including a family history of suicide, chronic mental illness, a history of trauma or abuse, recent tragedy or loss, isolation and prolonged stress. Age and gender play a role, too. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to die by suicide. People under age 24 and over age 65 are also at higher risk of suicide. Risk of suicide increases as a person’s ideation becomes more developed and they have the resources and opportunity to act on their plan.
Suicide warning signs
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) identifies several key warning signsthat someone may be suicidal, including:
Makes threats or comments about suicide: May begin with general statements like, “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
Increased alcohol and drug use
Withdrawing from friends, family and the community
Dramatic mood swings
Talking, writing or thinking about death
Impulsive or reckless behavior
Warning signs indicating immediate risk include:
Putting affairs in order and giving away possessions
Saying goodbye to friends and family
Mood shifts from despair to calm
Planning and trying to obtain resources to commit suicide (such as getting ahold of a firearm or prescription medication)
How Crosswinds can help
People who contemplate taking their lives have lost a sense of hope that their situation can be remedied. Crosswinds works with clients to restore that hope, helping both the person experiencing suicidal thoughts and their loved ones deal with the underlying causes of suicidal thinking and begin a healing process. Through therapy, Crosswinds clients learn new ways of thinking, coping, communicating and supporting that help move them away from despair and toward a sense of optimism and self-worth where they can live the full life God has intended for them.