Written by: Teresa Johnson, MS, NCC, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Penny Haight, M.Ed., LPC-S
Hope is a necessity for normal life and the major weapon against the suicide impulse.
—Karl A. Menninger
How Real of a Threat is Suicide?
Suicide is a very real problem in America. Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst 24-35-year-olds, and is the third leading cause of death amongst 15-24-year-olds. This means that there are two times as many deaths to suicide as there is to HIV/AIDS. Males make up 79 percent of all completed suicides. Women are more prone to attempts and/ or suicidal ideation.
Why Someone May Commit Suicide?
There are various reasons regarding why someone may attempt or complete suicide. The most common reason for suicide is Major Depression. When someone suffers from major depression and begin to contemplate suicide they likely feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. They may feel as though life is not worth living. Suicide may often feel like the only way out.
Other’s may have more impulsive tendencies such as acting out to get attention. An example of this would be getting into a fight with a significant other or the threat of a loss of relationship. They may choose to do something that is risky and dangerous to get their attention, and may even take it too far.
Finally, another cause may be accidental or due to a new trend. There are several ways a person can attempt or complete suicide accidentally. One example are new games that some are playing that restrict their airflow. When playing this game, the person may not be playing with the intent of dying. Some may also accidentally overdose on medication or drugs.
What to do if Someone is Contemplating Suicide?
Often when the topic of suicide is mentioned, people tend to become frightened and are unsure of how to respond. It is important to know if the person’s thoughts are only thoughts or if they have a plan and intent. It is ok to ask the person if they are having thoughts about hurting themselves. Keep in mind that although a person is contemplating suicide, they’re end goal is not really to die, it is to end the pain and suffering they feel.
When talking to someone who is suicidal, be your genuine self. It is important to let them know that you care about what happens and you are there to help. Remember to listen. The conversation may be negative and hard to hear, but if they are willing to talk, listen. Remain sympathetic, calm, accepting, and most importantly remain non-judgmental.
Reassuring the person that there is help available and the thoughts of suicide are also temporary can be beneficial. Always take the person serious. Make sure you ask if they have thought about how they would hurt themselves and remove anything that may be harmful to them such as: guns, razors, knives, or anything else that may be potentially hazardous. If someone is threatening to harm themselves, it is important not to leave them alone. Most importantly, make sure you can find help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Suicide prevention telephone hotline funded by the U.S. government. Provides free, 24-hour assistance. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
National Hopeline Network – Toll-free telephone number offering 24-hour suicide crisis support. 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). (National Hopeline Network)
The Trevor Project – Crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Includes a 24/7 hotline: 1-866-488-7386.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – Free, confidential 24/7 helpline information service for substance abuse and mental health treatment referral. 1-800-662-HELP (4357). (SAHMSA)