By Dr. David Woo - September 24, 2019
Suicidal thoughts, also referred to as suicidal ideation, and suicide affect men and women of all ages and ethnicities around the world.
The most recent reports given by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the general population and the second leading cause of death for children and adults between the ages of 10 and 34 years old in the United States. (1) Moreover, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, of the more than 47,000 people who die by suicide each year, more than half suffer from major depressive disorder. (2)
Depression is a highly treatable mental health disorder, especially when treated early. Many individuals diagnosed with depression respond to depression treatment, even in severe cases. Identifying signs of depression early on could save someone’s life.
Since September is National Suicide Prevention Month, we’d like to walk you through how to identify signs of suicidal ideation, as well as what steps to take to get help.
Who Is at Risk for Suicide or Thoughts of Suicide?
People who commit suicide or have suicidal thoughts often have one or more of the following experiences. These factors may increase a person’s risk of suicide.
- Previous history of suicide attempts
- Chronic pain
- Family history of suicide
- Substance abuse
- History of family abuse, both physical and sexual
Although suicide occurs across all demographics, reports show that:
- Women are more likely to attempt suicide
- Men are more likely to die by suicide (i.e. men’s suicide attempts are more likely to be successful) (3)
What Are Suicidal Thoughts?
Some examples of suicidal thoughts may include:
- “Life isn’t worth living”
- “I want to kill myself”
- “I wish I were dead”
- “Life is unbearable”
- “My family and friends are better off without me”
If you’ve thought these things to yourself, reach out for help immediately. You can:
- Reach out to a trusted friend of a family member
- Call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There is someone available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The hotline can be reached toll-free by calling 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
- Call your therapist/psychiatrist, or other mental health professional
How to Recognize Signs of Depression or Suicidal Tendencies in a Loved One
Signs of depression and/or suicidal tendencies can manifest as:
- Increased or new substance use
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Engaging in conversation about the lack of will to live/talking about suicide
- Social withdrawal and withdrawing from activities
- Changes in personality
- Giving away prized possessions
- Posting suicidal content on social media
If you notice signs of depression in a friend or loved one, express your concern and ask direct questions. Studies show that asking someone whether they’re having suicidal thoughts does not increase suicidal thoughts. (4) Examples of direct questions may include:
- Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
- How are you coping with what you’re feeling?
- Are you thinking about suicide?
- Do you have a plan?
If someone you know expresses suicidal thoughts, encourage them to seek help. Give them the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK(8255) and encourage them to reach out to a mental health professional. You can also reach out to a mental health professional to ask for help in supporting someone who has expressed suicidal thoughts.
To learn more about National Suicide Prevention Month and how you can help, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ website. Learn more about depression on our website. You can also learn about TMS therapy and TMS therapy costs.
1. Leading causes of death reports, 1981-2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — WISQARS. Updated January 18, 2019. Click Here. Accessed August 12, 2019.
2. Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Publication date unavailable. Click Here. Accessed August 12, 2019.
3. Increase in Suicide in the United States, 1999–2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published April 22, 2016. Click Here. Accessed August 12, 2019.4. Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions. National Institute of Mental Health. Publication date unavailable. Click Here. Accessed August 12, 2019.