As has been proven in recent months, suicide knows no bounds: Not in gender, not in race, not in age, and not in socio-economic status.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, overall suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Virginia, with 1,166 suicides taking place in 2016 (38th nationally). However, for people ages 15-34, it’s the second leading cause of death and the fourth leading cause of death for those ages 35-54.
“The suicide numbers may have risen, particularly for the middle-aged group, due to our economic recession and financial hardships that were devastating to many,” said Dr. Serina Neumann, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences professor for Eastern Virginia Medical School.
She said the higher suicide rate may also stem from the stigma of mental health issues and poor access to mental health care.
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state.
Researchers found that more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition. As might be expected, relationship problems or loss, substance misuse, physical health problems, and job, money, legal or housing stress was often a contributing factor.
Firearms were found to be the most common method for committing suicide, whether the victim did or did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition.
Know the signs
Often, but not always, someone who is considering taking their own life will exhibit outward signs. For family and friends, it’s important to know those and to be able to recognize those signs. According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, the following are the most common signs:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated, or behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
What are the risk factors?
Life can be difficult and complicated for anyone and everyone. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, there are many factors that can lead someone to think suicide is the answer to solving their problems:
- Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
- Alcohol and other substance use disorders
- Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
- History of trauma or abuse
- Major physical illnesses
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Job or financial loss
- Loss of relationship(s)
- Easy access to lethal means
- Local clusters of suicide
- Lack of social support and sense of isolation
- Stigma associated with asking for help
- Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
- Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
- Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)
What can you do?
If you’re feeling that you may want to harm or to kill yourself, talk to someone: a loved one, a friend, a doctor, a mental health professional, or a clergy member, or call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK).
If you think you know someone who is suicidal, call the lifeline and seek guidance.
Also, #BeThe1To offers five action steps for helping those in need.
“Suicide is a leading cause of death for Americans – and it’s a tragedy for families and communities across the country,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. “From individuals and communities to employers and healthcare professionals, everyone can play a role in efforts to help save lives and reverse this troubling rise in suicide.”