I am passing along the following from the National Institutes on Mental Health. On the one hand, it doesn’t fit my blog which is all about living a healthy life and keeping one’s brain intact till the end. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that while you, my regular reader, have no personal problems with the possibility of suicide, you may have a friend or loved one suffering from emotional pain.
The recent deaths of high-profile public figures and a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on rising suicide rates have brought the topic of suicide into everyday conversations. It’s important to know some facts and to know what to do if you think someone might be at risk for self-harm. A crisis can pass with time and the most important thing is to stay safe through the crisis and get help.
5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain
Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
Help them connect: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there if you need it: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
Stay Connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.
CDC reported that nearly 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016, it is the third leading cause of death among those age 10-34, and the 10th leading cause of death overall. The suicide death rate has increased in the US since 1999, however it is still a relatively rare event resulting in approximately 13 deaths for every 100,000 people.
Suicide is Complicated
There is no single cause of suicide, it is linked to mental health conditions and stressful life experiences. It’s important to reach out and talk honestly with anyone going through a difficult time.
Many stressful situations contribute to suicide among those with and without known mental health conditions. Some of the most significant contributing factors include:
A crisis that occurred in the past two weeks or that is expected in the next two weeks
Substance use problems
Physical health problems
Job or financial problems
Criminal or legal problems
Loss of housing
The Warning Signs
These are the most common signs that someone is in emotional distress. If you are concerned, take the 5 Action Steps listed above.
Feeling like a burden
Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Increased substance use
Looking for a way to access lethal means (e.g., a firearm or pills)
Increased anger or rage
Extreme mood swings
Sleeping too little or too much
Talking or posting about wanting to die
A Community Effort
Suicide is a growing public health problem and the solution will take a community effort. This CDC factsheet highlights how everyone—from states, employers, and schools to the news media and friends—can have an impact on suicide prevention.
Action Steps for News Media
Research shows that the media can influence suicide rates by the way they report on suicide. Evidence suggests that when the media tells stories of people positively coping in suicidal moments, more suicides can be prevented.
For best practices for safely and accurately reporting on suicide, please see
Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide.