Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you are feeling suicidal, call 1-800-273-TALK anywhere in the U.S. You don’t have to give your name.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with the highest rate being people between 45 and 64. Suicide is estimated to cost the economy $34 billion each year, with attempts costing another $8 billion.
It’s important to recognize the warning signs of suicide. Not everyone who intends to kill themselves exhibits all the signs—and sometimes people do it impulsively and exhibit none of them—but here are some things to look for:
- The idea that people who talk about it don’t do it is a myth. If someone hints about or makes reference to harming themselves, that is legitimate cause for concern.
- A person planning for suicide may not be apparent, but it may be, particularly things like suddenly seeking guns, pills, or other lethal items, putting their affairs in order, or saying goodbye to people.
- A preoccupation with death or a sense of hopelessness may indicate suicidal thoughts or intent.
- People planning to take their own lives will display feelings of self-loathing and self-destructive behavior, and may become withdrawn and isolated.
- Someone who has been extremely depressed, especially if it hasn’t been cyclical, and who suddenly seems to have had the cloud lift, might have found piece because of a decision to commit suicide.
These aren’t sure signs, particularly individually, but they may be reason for concern. If you are concerned, the best thing to do is listen sympathetically and offer a voice, not of reason, but of hope. Don’t be judgmental, don’t be shocked or angry, don’t lecture, and don’t offer advice or try to fix their problems. On the other hand, you can ask if they’re considering suicide—don’t worry about putting the idea in their head.
You should not promise confidentiality or be sworn to secrecy—you may need to contact mental health professionals—but you should provide a space where they feel safe talking to you. If they want confidentiality, direct them to resources such as Lifeline or the suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255.