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Advice for Suicide Prevention
How to Save a Loved One

article by Steve Johnson, PublicHealthLibrary.org
submitted: 07.11.16
   The statistics for suicide in the United States are sobering. Currently, suicide ranks as the tenth leading cause of death in this country. Each year, nearly 43,000 Americans die by suicide, but for every suicide there are 25 attempts. Annual suicide costs in the U.S. are $44 billion. On average, there are 117 suicides per day. Guns account for nearly half of all suicides. Men die by suicide nearly four times more often than women, though women make more attempts than men.

   Sadly, suicide in the U.S. has reached a 30-year high with increases in every age group except older adults. Knowing the numbers, however, is not enough. You need to be cognizant of the fact that one of your loved ones may be at risk for suicide, and if you suspect that someone is, you need to be prepared to offer help to potentially save a life.

1. Remember that suicide is preventable

   One of the most important pieces of advice for suicide prevention is to remember that suicide is, in fact, preventable. You can be aware of the warning signs and risks for suicide. You can listen when a loved one shares his suicidal thoughts with you.

   You can call 911 or contact a suicide help line if the person is in immediate danger, or you can contact a local mental health agency or medical provider to get the person into therapy or treatment. By responding quickly and appropriately, you have the power to prevent a loved one’s suicide.

2. Be aware of the risk factors for suicide

   Certain groups of people are at a higher risk of suicide than others. If your loved one falls into one of these groups, you need to encourage him to seek professional help right away, if you believe that he is suicidal. High-risk groups include:

• American Indians and Alaska Natives
• People who have already attempted suicide
• People with medical conditions, especially those with depression or mood disorders
• People caught up in the justice system or child welfare settings
• People who exhibit self-harm
• People with mental disorders
• Members of the LGBTQ community
• Active-duty military members and veterans
• Girls ages 10-14
• Middle-aged people

   People who are involved in substance abuse or alcohol abuse also are at a higher risk for suicide. While depression and mood disorders are the leading risk factor for suicide in the U.S., alcohol and drug abuse come in at a close second. Research shows that the strongest predictor of suicide is alcoholism, rather than a psychiatric diagnosis.

   In fact, people with substance use disorders are nearly six times more likely to commit suicide than those without them. Substance abusers also have the means for committing suicide, as nearly 33% of people who die by suicide are under the influence of drugs, including prescription drugs like oxycodone, heroin, or alcohol.

3. Do not wait for the person to ask for help

   If you think that your loved one is at a risk for suicide, there is a good chance that you are correct. You should be aware of the warning signs and risk factors and take them seriously. Keep in mind that if your loved one is talking about suicide, it is a warning that should not be taken lightly. By sharing his thoughts or plans to attempt suicide, your loved one is reaching out for help.

   However, not all people who are contemplating suicide talk about it first. You need to take action if you have concerns, rather than waiting for the person to speak up or ask for help. Being aware of the other warning signs that your loved one is suicidal is a smart place to start.

• The person frequently talks or writes about death or dying
• The person seeks out things that could be used to attempt suicide including weapons or drugs
• The person expresses feeling hopeless, talks about feelings that are unbearable, predicts a hopeless future, or claims to have nothing to look forward to
• The person exhibits dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes
• The person loses interest in normal activities
• The person neglects his appearance
• The person has drastic changes in eating or sleeping habits
• The person begins to get his affairs in order
• The person seems to be saying goodbye or makes unusual or unexpected visits to loved ones
• The person withdraws from loved ones
• The person exhibits self-destructive behavior
• The person suddenly seems to be calm and happy after being deeply depressed

4. Listen carefully when the person opens up to you

   It may be difficult to have a conversation with your loved one when she opens up about her suicidal thoughts or attempts. You need to listen without passing any judgment and allow her to completely finish sharing her feelings before you interrupt. Share your concern and let her know that you love her and are relieved that she shared her suicidal thoughts with you.

   Be patient, empathetic, and accepting and avoid getting angry, taking it personally, or giving advice. If your loved one is in immediate danger, do not leave her alone and call 911. If the person is not in immediate danger, remove objects from the home that she could use to commit suicide, such as drugs, alcohol, knives, and guns, and seek help from a suicide prevention helpline or medical professional.

   Doing all that you can to listen to and support a loved one who is contemplating suicide is one of the best ways to prevent suicide. It is imperative that you take action if you are going to save a loved one’s life.

   Steve Johnson has always been dedicated to promoting health and wellness in all aspects of life. Studying in the medical field has shown him how important it is for reputable health-related facts, figures, tips, and other guidance to be readily available to the public. He created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow student to act as a resource for people’s overall health inquiries and as an accurate and extensive source of health information. When he isn’t hard at work in his studies, Steve enjoys playing tennis and listening to his vintage record collection.
 
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