While people often talk about physical ailments or medical conditions, they rarely openly discuss mental health issues they may be experiencing. This could happen for many reasons, but prevention efforts may lag if we don’t understand why people don’t talk about suicide.
Warning Signs for Suicide
If you suspect that someone is contemplating suicide but aren’t ready to talk with that person yet, there are warning signs to watch for:
- Potential substance abuse
- Destructive behavior
- The person self-isolates from loved ones and the community
- Dramatic shifts in mood
- Impetuous or reckless conduct
- Accumulating drugs or purchasing a weapon
- Giving away personal belongings
- Getting their personal affairs in order
- Making the rounds with final good-byes
Facts About Suicide
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers suicide a serious public health risk. Here are some facts to be aware of:
- Suicide resulted in nearly 46,000 deaths in 2020.
- Suicide affects people of all ages and is a leading cause of death for people 10 to 64 years old.
- More than 12 million adults thought about suicide in 2020.
- Suicide results in one death every 11 minutes.
- It’s estimated that suicide costs America $70 billion annually.
The CDC estimates that 46% of people who die by suicide experienced a documented mental health condition. Risk factors to watch for include:
- Family history.
- Substance abuse.
- Intoxication at the time of the suicide attempt.
- Access to lethal means to attempt suicide.
- History of abuse or traumatic situations.
- Lengthy periods of stress and inability to manage it.
- Suffering a personal loss or tragedy.
If you think someone is considering suicide, reach out to that person. Talking to them may be a key to prevention.
Are Women More Susceptible?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that women are more likely to try suicide than men, but fewer go through with it compared to men. This could be because men often use more lethal methods, including firearms, hanging, or suffocation. On the other hand, women make attempts by trying to poison themselves by overdosing on prescription or non-prescription medicine. Unfortunately, recent data paints a chilling portrait – that women may be starting to use more lethal means just like men.
Reasons Why the Topic of Suicide is Largely Avoided
One of the biggest reasons people don’t talk about suicide is the stigma underpinning the topic. Even now, it’s often a taboo subject. There are three kinds of stigma that we can talk about specific to suicide, but which also apply to many other sensitive topics:
- Stigma is a big reason why some people don’t get help for mental illness. This is when someone perceives you badly due to a unique characteristic or personal attribute that they think is a disadvantage. This negative stereotype is often experienced by a person struggling with mental illness.
- Social stigma. When talking about health topics like suicide, social stigma refers to the negative link between someone or a group of people who have a stake in certain features and an explicit disease. This could result in someone facing discrimination, being labeled, typecast, being treated apart from others, or experiencing a loss of standing because of a supposed connection with a disease.
- Perceived stigma/self-stigma is when the person internalizes their perception of discrimination related to mental illness and fails to seek care because of it.
Other reasons people don’t talk about suicide may include public humiliation and shaming, which is part of the broader discussion of the dangers of the stigma of suicide. Today, with mobile devices, fast internet connections, and social media, instances of embarrassment have been known to drive people to suicide because they feel ashamed and can’t talk about what is going on.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you’re considering suicide, get immediate medical care. Your healthcare provider or mental health specialist is best equipped to handle a diagnosis, which may rely on:
- Your overall mental health. Assessment will include asking about symptoms, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and personal and family history of suicide attempts and mental illness.
- A physical examination to determine if there’s a medical reason for symptoms.
- Assessing evidence of alcohol or substance abuse.
- Determining whether any medicine you take is affecting your mental health.
If you or a loved one is in an emergency, call the suicide prevention hotline for immediate help. Standard treatment options for non-emergency situations often include psychotherapy, prescription medicine, self-help, or ketamine therapy based on your health and the symptoms you’re experiencing.