The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide. What drives so many individuals to take their own lives? To those who are not in the grips of suicidal depression and despair, it’s difficult to understand what drives so many individuals to take their own lives. But a suicidal person is in so much pain that they can see no other option.
Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just can’t see one.
|Common misconceptions about suicide|
|Myth: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone,” “I can’t see any way out,”—no matter how casually or jokingly said—may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
|Myth: Anyone who tries to kill themselves must be crazy.
Fact: Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They are upset, grief-stricken, depressed, or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.
|Myth: If someone is determined to kill themselves, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Even a very severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, fluctuating between wanting to live and wanting to die. Rather than wanting death, they just want the pain to stop—and the impulse to end their life does not last forever.
|Myth: People who die by suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Fact: Many people try to get help before attempting suicide. In fact, studies indicate that more than 50 percent of suicide victims had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.
|Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You don’t give someone suicidal ideas by talking about suicide. Rather, the opposite is true. Talking openly and honestly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can help save a life.
Warning signs of suicide
Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide—it’s a cry for help.
Most suicidal individuals give warning signs or signals of their intentions. The best way to prevent suicide is to recognize these warning signs and know how to respond if you spot them. If you believe that a friend or family member is suicidal, you can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives, showing that you care, and getting a doctor or psychologist involved.
Major warning signs for suicide include talking about killing or harming oneself, talking or writing a lot about death or dying, and seeking out things that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as weapons and drugs. These signals are even more dangerous if the person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, suffers from alcohol dependence, has previously attempted suicide, or has a family history of suicide.
A more subtle, but equally dangerous, warning sign of suicide is hopelessness. Studies have found that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide. People who feel hopeless may talk about “unbearable” feelings, predict a bleak future, and state that they have nothing to look forward to.
Other warning signs that point to a suicidal mind frame include dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as switching from outgoing to withdrawn or from well-behaved to rebellious. A suicidal person may also lose interest in day-to-day activities, neglect their appearance, or show big changes in their eating or sleeping habits.
Suicide warning signs include:
Talking about suicide – Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”
Seeking out lethal means – Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death – Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order – Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye – Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others – Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior – Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm – A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.