This September, a wide swath of organizations will be doing their part to end suicide once and for all. September is International Suicide Awareness Month. About 2,000 people die of suicide each year in Australia, with thousands more surviving suicide attempts—and often living with permanent disabilities resulting from these attempts.
Many people contemplate suicide and want to look away; after all, it’s one of the most horrifying actions another person can take, and many people don’t want to believe that their loved ones are at risk of suicide. In honor of Suicide Awareness Month, here are five suicide facts you need to know.
Suicide Often Comes With Warning Signs
Popular wisdom suggests that people sometimes threaten suicide to get attention, but the research says otherwise. A person who threatens to kill himself or herself is in imminent risk of doing so. Suicide often comes with other warning signs, too, including:
- Giving things away
- A long period of depression followed by a sudden improvement in mood; some suicidal people feel relief after they make a suicide plan.
- Threats to commit suicide; the more detailed the plan is, the greater the risk of suicide.
- A history of anxiety or depression
- Suffering a recent loss, such as a divorce or the death of a loved one
- Access to weapons, or to other means to harm oneself, such as pills
- A previous history of suicide attempts
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol
You Can Help a Suicidal Loved One
If someone you love is feeling suicidal, don’t turn away and don’t shame him or her, since these actions can push your loved one closer to suicide. Instead, try some of the following:
- Offer your loved one a distraction, such as a fun outing.
- Listen to your loved one, and do not argue with him or her.
- Ask what you can do to help.
- Encourage your loved one to seek treatment or to call a suicide hot line.
- Offer to help your loved one find a counsellor.
- Remind your loved one that suicidal feelings are often temporary.
- Ask your loved one to commit to not killing him or herself for another day or week; oftentimes, the feelings pass before the end of the promise comes.
- Don’t tell your loved one his or her problems are trivial, or that suicide is selfish. This will only cause your loved one to shut you out and feel more suicidal.
Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Are Linked to Suicide
Most people who struggle with mental illness have contemplated suicide at one point or another, and substance abuse can compound the desire to die, since drugs and alcohol undermine judgment. If someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, carefully monitor them for signs of suicidal thoughts or feelings. You may save a life if you do so.
Suicide is Common
Though only a small portion of Australians kill themselves, many more attempt to do so. Suicide is common, and it affects people of all ages and walks of life. There is not a “type” of person who kills himself, so don’t reassure yourself with vague proclamations that your loved one is emotionally healthy, or just not the sort to commit suicide. If someone you love is in psychological distress, suicide is a risk that you must take seriously. Ignoring suicide could endanger the life of someone you love.
Suicide Affects Even the Very Young
Young people have so much to live for, and so much time to achieve their goals. So it’s tragic that they are actually the group most likely to kill themselves. Inexperience dealing with life’s challenges, undeveloped brains, financial problems, lack of social support, and a host of other difficulties conspire to convince young people that suicide is the best—and maybe the only—way to manage their problems. Sadly, young people may not be willing to discuss their emotions, due to fear of punishment, mental health stigma, and concerns about whether they are “normal.” If a young person you love is at risk of suicide or struggles with mental health problems, don’t be afraid to initiate the conversation. Asking a loved one how they’re feeling, contrary to popular belief, won’t increase the likelihood he or she commits suicide; indeed, this may be the one thing that prevents another tragic suicide.