Suicide is a word we hear about through the news, friends, or pop-culture, but a majority of us feel it won’t affect our lives. We feel distant from this subject, not recognizing the devastating and vast effect it has nationally and here in our own state.
According to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, suicide was the 9th leading cause of death for all age groups in Tennessee in 2013, claiming approximately 950 lives per year. This number, however, does not encapsulate the amount of suicide attempts, as well as deaths that perhaps go unidentified as a suicide, claiming it was an “accident” or “unknown” cause of death. According to our most recent state-specific statistics, completed through 2014, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people (ages 10-19) in Tennessee, with one person in this age group lost to suicide every week. We lose one person between the ages of 10-24 every four days, and every day we lose at least one person over the age of 45—midlife and older adults are actually at higher risk.
Nationally, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death claiming approximately 41,149 lives per year across all ages. These numbers are devastating not only because of their enormity, but because of the fact that suicide is preventable. We can all do something to stop these numbers from rising, and it starts with education — learning what to watch for, listen for, and knowing how/where to get help. We have to “know” before we can act.
Know the Signs
The following are some of the behavioral patterns that may indicate possible risk for suicide.
- Talking about suicide, death, and/or no reason to live
- Withdrawal from friends and/or social activities
- Experience of a recent severe loss (especially a relationship) or the threat of a significant loss
- Loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
- Giving away prized possessions
- Previous history of suicide attempts, as well as violence and/or hostility
- Unnecessary risks; reckless and/or impulsive behavior
- Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs
- General hopelessness
- Recent experience humiliation or failure
- Unwillingness to connect with potential helpers
Suicide is also one of the last taboo subjects, likely because it feels too uncomfortable or difficult to discuss. Perhaps it’s avoided because we are afraid that if we talk about it, it will give someone the idea. Talking about suicide does not put the idea in someone’s head; instead it can relieve the pressure of someone thinking of taking their own life. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; however, they are in immense pain and are unable to see alternatives to their problems. We can’t afford to sit silently and let this tragedy continue to claim lives when the reality is a majority of those who die by suicide give some warning signs and/or clues beforehand. If we know what to watch for, we can take action.
How to Help
Everyone plays a part in preventing suicide, and everyone can save a life. If you are concerned that someone you know or love might be thinking of taking their life, ask them directly about this. Ask them if this is what they are thinking, and then get them help. You can take them to a mental health professional like the counselors at Insight Counseling Centers, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, you can go to the nearest emergency room, or you can call mobile crisis. Getting them help and then following up is the most important step you can take. Don’t be afraid to take action, it just may save a life.
For more information on suicide prevention, including what to watch for, statistics, and more resources, you can visit the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network at tspn.org.