Thoughts of suicide can be frightening. But by reaching out for help or checking in with family and friends, we can avoid devastating outcomes.
According to the CDC and NIMH, nearly 46,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2020 alone. Comments or thoughts about suicide, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin small — for example, “I wish I wasn’t here” or “Nothing matters.” But over time, they can become more explicit and dangerous.
Here are a few other warning signs of suicide:
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family and community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline:
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
If you are unsure, a licensed mental health professional can help assess.
Research has found that 46% of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition. Several other factors may put a person at risk of suicide, including but not limited to:
- A family history of suicide
- Substance use: Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
- Intoxication: Analysis from the CDC indicates around 1 in 5 people who die by suicide had alcohol in their system at the time of death.
- Access to firearms
- A serious or chronic medical illness
- Gender: Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are 4x more likely to die by suicide.
- A history of trauma or abuse
- Prolonged stress
- A recent tragedy or loss
Support In A Crisis
When a suicide-related crisis occurs, friends and family are often caught off-guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do. The behaviors of a person experiencing a crisis can be unpredictable, changing dramatically without warning.
There are a few ways to approach a suicide-related crisis:
- Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
- Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
- Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
- If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
- Express support and concern
- Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
- Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
- If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace
- Be patient
If your friend or family member struggles with suicidal ideation day-to-day, let them know that they can talk with you about what they’re going through. Make sure that you adopt an open and compassionate mindset when they’re talking. Instead of “arguing” or trying to disprove any negative statements they make (“Your life isn’t that bad!”), try active listening techniques such as reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts. This can help your loved one feel heard and validated.
Let them know that mental health professionals are trained to help people understand their feelings and improve mental wellness and resiliency. Psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, can help a person with thoughts of suicide recognize ineffective patterns of thinking and behavior, validate their feelings and learn positive coping skills. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom, just like any other — they can be treated, and they can improve over time.
Suicide is not the answer. There is hope.
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Suicide rates increased 30% between 2000–2018, and declined in 2019 and 2020. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with 45,979 deaths in 2020. This is about one death every 11 minutes. The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2020, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million attempted suicide.
Suicide affects all ages. In 2020, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 25-34.
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The Relationship Between Alcoholism And Suicide
For many, suicide is a difficult topic to broach. Culturally, it is considered taboo and often the language we use is both polarizing and stigmatized. It is important to make the space to discuss thoughts and feelings as they relate to suicide so those suffering from its weight might seek the help they need more easily. This is especially important in cases where an individual might be suffering from an addiction to alcohol as well as suicidal thoughts.
If you are contemplating suicide, please stop reading and call 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is open 24/7 and allows anyone to speak openly and anonymously.
In today’s world, unfortunately, many people have a relationship with suicide. Whether a close personal relationship or that of a friend, suicide claims the lives of thousands each year. In 2019 alone, 47,500 Americans lost their lives to suicide. While there is rarely one reason behind a person’s death by suicide, it has been found that nearly 1/3 of suicide deaths have been linked to alcohol consumption.
Many people use alcohol as self-medication. Whether they suffer from anxiety or other mental illness, some kind of mood or personality disorder, or are trying to cope with a trauma, many people turn to alcohol in an attempt to forget their problems. The chronic use of this substance, however, can mean that someone builds a tolerance, dependence, and eventually an addiction.
What once might have been considered an aid, is now another (if not greater) strain on their life, harming relationships, jobs and responsibilities, and even the body. Alcoholism has the power to devastate a person who previously had no history of health issues; consequently, when someone who does have underlying health conditions experiments with alcohol as a crutch or coping mechanism, in time, they might become more likely to take their own life.
Although alcohol may provide temporary relief from suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide), in reality, it makes the issue exponentially worse. In most cases, mid-to-long-term alcohol abuse makes suicidal ideation both more frequent and more powerful, subsequently increasing the likelihood of suicide attempts. Additionally, alcohol abuse generally makes other contributing factors to suicide worse. For example, alcohol exacerbates the symptoms of many mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and depression, all of which can contribute to suicide.
The Implications Of Alcohol And Suicide
The pain felt by family members and loved ones of someone who has taken their own life is often harder to deal with than if they died by another means. Often, those who lost someone feel some level of guilt or responsibility. It is important to note that suicide is not something that gives blame or points fingers, it is powerful and greedy and takes ruthlessly. However, it is equally imperative to seek help immediately if you notice changes in mood or signs of suicidal thoughts in yourself or a loved one. Those feelings may be indescribably heavy and suffocating, but finding a professional to work through that darkness might be the beginning of a brand new life.
If you or someone you know is in crisis (CAD)
If you’re in immediate danger or need urgent medical support, call 911.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For residents of Quebec, call 1-866-277-3553 or visit suicide.ca.
Wellness Together Canada
To connect with a mental health professional one-on-one:
- call 1-888-668-6810 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth
- call 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 741741 for adults