If you are feeling desperate, alone or helpless, or know someone who is
call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
to talk to a counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Please read here for information for survivors of suicide.
Please read here if you are trying to cope with the loss of a loved one from a suicide.
What Is Suicide?
Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, accounting for around 40,000 deaths per year and an estimated 1 million deaths worldwide. It leaves behind more unanswered questions than any other cause of death. Friends and family members are left in a wake of uncertainty, most never knowing what events led to their loved one's death.
What Are The Causes for a Suicide?
Over 90% of those who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death - the most common mental illness that leads to suicide is depression. Other mental illnesses that may lead to suicide include bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The most common reason for a death by suicide is untreated depression.
It's very rare for someone to die by suicide due to a single cause. Usually, there are several reasons that someone chooses to die by suicide. Some of the negative experiences that may lead someone to choose suicide include the following:
- Drug abuse
- Death of a loved one
- Losing custody of children
- A serious illness
- A terminal illness
- Family history of suicide and exposure to suicidal behaviors of others
- A serious accident
- Intense emotional pain
- Losing hope
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling taken advantage of
- Inability to cope with failure
- Inability to cope with a humiliating situation
- A horrible disappointment
- Chronic physical pain
- Physical and/or sexual abuse
- Victim of domestic violence
- Financial troubles
- Feeling trapped in a negative situation
- Fear that things will never improve
- Feeling unaccepted by friends, family and society
- Low self-esteem
What Are Some Common Motivations For Suicide?
Left in the wake of a suicide, many suicide survivors try to understand why a loved one chose to end his or her life. Here are some of the common reasons for a suicide:
Suicide is a solution. Suicide is many things, but it is neither random nor pointless. To those who choose to end their lives, suicide is seen as an answer to an unsolvable problem or a way out of a horrible dilemma. Suicide is (somehow) the preferred choice to another set of dreaded circumstances, emotional pain, or disability, which the person fears more than death.
Suicide is a way to cease consciousness. Those who die by suicide want to end their conscious experience, which, for them, has become an endless stream of distressing, preoccupying thoughts. Suicide offers total oblivion.
Suicide stemming from frustrated psychological needs. People who have high standards and expectations are extra vulnerable to suicide when progress toward goals is suddenly frustrated. People who attribute failure and disappointment to their own shortcomings may view themselves as worthless, unlovable, and incompetent. In adults, suicide is often related to work or interpersonal problems. In teenagers, suicide is often precipitated by family turmoil.
Suicide may be a way to end intolerable psychological pain. Excruciating negative emotions (i.e. sadness, shame, guilt, anger, and fear) from any circumstance frequently serve as the foundation for suicide.
Suicide stems from ambivalence. Most of those who contemplate suicide - including those successful in carrying out their suicidal plans -are ambivalent. They do want to die, yet they also wish they could find another solution to their dilemma.
Suicide may be a response to hopelessness and/or helplessness. A pessimistic expectation about the future is even more important than other types of negative emotions (anger, depression) in predicting suicide. A suicidal person is convinced that nothing whatsoever can improve the situation; that no one else can help.
Suicide as a plan. Suicidal thoughts and plans are like tunnel vision. The suicidal person is unable or unwilling to engage in any effective problem-solving behaviors and may see everything in all or nothing terms.
Someone who dies by suicide has often spoken of his or her suicidal ideations. There's a harmful myth that those who really want to die by suicide do not talk about it. However, at least 80% of those who do end up killing themselves have spoken to others about their plans or have attempted suicide before.
Suicide as an escape. Suicide provides a way to escape from intolerable circumstances.
Those who die by suicide may lack coping skills. During crisis periods that precipitate suicidal thoughts, people tend to use the response patterns they've used all of their life.
What are the Warning Signs of Suicide?
While it may seem otherwise, suicide is rarely a spur of the moment idea.
The strongest signs that someone is going to commit suicide are verbal, such as, "I cannot go on," "I can't do this anymore," "Nothing matters," "I'm thinking of ending it all."
While many people do not exhibit any symptoms of suicide, approximately 75% of those who die by suicide do exhibit warning signs of suicide.
Always take any warning signs of suicide very, very seriously.
Here are some warning signs that someone you love may be feeling suicidal:
- Becoming depressed and acting sad most of the time
- Losing interest in activities
- Talking or writing about death or suicide
- Sudden and dramatic change in mood
- Sudden change in personality
- Feeling hopeless/helpless without a reason to live.
- Feeling a strong rage
- Feeling trapped in a situation
- Acting impulsively
- Giving away possessions
- Getting affairs in order
- Writing a will
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Abusing drugs and/or alcohol
- Looking for ways to kill oneself
- Feeling hopeless
- Change in sleeping and eating habits
- Performing poorly at work or school
How To Help A Suicidal Friend (Emergency Situation):
If your friend has an active plan (a set time and way they plan to suicide) for suicide, call 911. Don't hesitate.
While waiting for 911 to respond, STAY WITH THE SUICIDAL FRIEND.
If your suicidal friend has plans to use a firearm for suicide - and owns the firearm - call the police.
When in doubt, CALL 911!
Before you leave the suicidal person, make sure that he or she is in professional hands that are able to handle the risk for suicide.
After the suicidal person has gotten help and is no longer at risk for a suicide, help the person make an appointment with a doctor or therapist to help with his or her problems.
Continue to follow up and check in with your suicidal friend as often as you can.
How to Help A Suicidal Friend (Non-Emergency):
If the suicide is not an eminent emergency, here are some tips for talking to a suicidal friend or loved one.
Listen, really listen to your suicidal friend rather than offer solutions and help. Let your suicidal loved one talk as much as he or she wants while listening closely to what he or she says.
When someone is feeling suicidal, they must talk about their feelings immediately. Sometimes, just letting those feelings out can help.
Don't be judgmental and invalidate anything the suicidal person says or feels.
Offer encouragement - not platitudes - while listening to your suicidal loved one speak.
Be careful of your words - you don't want to make the suicidal person feel any worse than he or she already does.
Allow for the expression of suicide and dark thoughts in ANY WAY they want. Allow your suicidal loved one to cry, yell, swear or scream - anything to let out that emotion.
Let them know that you do care about them very much and that you are very concerned about them. A suicidal person is very vulnerable.
If your suicidal loved one tells you to keep the suicidal intents a secret, don't keep the secret. Saving a life is more important than honoring your friend's privacy.
Talk openly about suicide - you need to know as much as you can about what's going through your suicidal loved one's mind. The more planning, the more risk that your suicidal loved one may actually go through with the suicide. Use the method form (Suicidal, method, means, when?) Ask things like this:
"Are you feeling so badly that you're thinking about suicide?"
If yes, say, "Have you thought about how you'd commit suicide?"
If yes ask, "Do you have what you need to commit suicide?"
If yes, ask, "Have you thought about when you'd do it?"
If your suicidal loved one can answer all of those questions, CALL 911. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY SITUATION.
How Do I Handle A Suicidal Person Online?
If you see a suicidal person online, don't presume they're faking it. They're reaching out - you should help if you can.
Start by sending the suicidal person to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline website.
Tell them to call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK.
Take any talk of suicide seriously.
Respond with compassion.
Encourage the suicidal person online to reach out for help from a friend, family member, therapist or others in his or her community.
If someone you see online says that he or she is about to kill him or herself or is in the process of attempting suicide, try to locate this person and call the local police.
Grief Following A Suicide:
Read more about coping with a loss from suicide here.
Read more about suicide survivors here.
The loss of someone you love to suicide is incredibly shocking and the grieving process is intense and prolonged and those left behind often feel abandoned.
Wondering if the death could have been prevented and questioning whether or not the death could have been prevented is incredibly common and incredibly guilt-inducing. There is research to support that people grieving a suicide feel more guilt than those who grieve any other death.
Related Resource Pages on Band Back Together:
Sources of Support For Suicide:
Kristin Brooks Hope Center: non-profit organization that helps to educate the public about suicide and how to prevent it. It sponsors the National Hopeline Network (USA) online at www.hopeline.com or by phone at 1-800-SUICIDE.
Please, if you are thinking about suicide, pick up the phone and call 1-800-SUICIDE.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the call is routed to the nearest crisis center in our national network of more than 140 crisis centers.
Befrienders Worldwide: Organization that works to provide emotional support to reduce suicide. They want to listen to people who are in distress. They do not judge or tell them what to do. They LISTEN. They can also help with bereavement and grieving that follows the death of a loved one through suicide.
We Can Help Us: Teen suicide prevention and awareness site. AWESOME.
Survivors of Suicide: Independently owned site to help those who have lost loved ones to suicide deal with their grief.
Sources of Information about Suicide:
American Association of Suicidology: an educational organization that is devoted to understanding and preventing suicide. They are attempting to advance Suicidology as a science; encouraging, developing and disseminating scholarly work in suicidology. They encourage the development and application of strategies that reduce the incidence and prevalence of suicidal behaviors.
Suicide Awareness Voices Of Education (SAVE): an educational site that aims to educate the public about suicide, reduce the stigma of suicide, and serve as a resource for those touched by suicide. Many links to community resources, information about intervention strategies to prevent suicide, and all kinds of information about mental illnesses.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education, and advocacy, and to reaching out to those with mental illness and those impacted by suicide.