Suicide is a tragic and highly preventable problem that is plaguing our nation – in particular, our youth and young adults. The suicide rate has been increasing every year since 2000. As of 2013, there were 12.6 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people in the American population. As these figures continue to climb, it is important to understand the facts about who is most at risk of committing suicide, what one should look for in terms of warning signs for potential suicide attempts, how to address such warning signs if they are observed, and what resources are available to suicidal individuals and the community.
First, it is important to understand who is more likely to commit suicide. The fact is that women attempt suicide more often than men, but men are more likely to successfully commit suicide. Research shows that this is because women tend to use less lethal and immediate means of suicide than men. For example, women are more likely to cut their wrists or try to overdose on pills. These methods allow time for someone else to intervene – such as by stopping the bleeding or calling an ambulance to have someone’s stomach pumped. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to use firearms to commit suicide, which can result in immediate death if the gunshot wound is to the head or a vital organ.
Second, Caucasians and Native Americans are the most likely to commit suicide in the United States. Also, suicide by firearm accounted for more than half of all suicides and was the most common method of suicide in 2013. This is important to note because if an individual should demonstrate any warning signs of suicidal ideation, it is important that friends and loved ones ensure that the individual does not have access to any firearms. Suffocation, handing, and poisoning are the next leading methods of suicide, in descending order. The most common mental health disorders associated with suicide are depression, other mood disorders (such as bipolar disorder), schizophrenia, and personality disorders.
People who are concerned about a loved one should be on the look out for common warning signs of suicide. In addition to any evidence of mental illness or instability, friends and family members should be on the look out for certain verbal topics, behaviors, and mood symptoms. If an individual frequently talks about having no reason to live, feeling as though he or she is a burden to others, or about killing themselves, these words should be taken seriously. If an individual begins acting recklessly, using drugs or alcohol, withdrawing from activities and social situations, or giving away prized possessions, these may be indicators of suicidal ideation. Also, if an individual expresses moods of depression, apathy, irritability, anxiety, rage, and humiliation, it is possible that the individual is becoming more likely to experience suicidal ideation.
If an individual begins talking about suicide, do not ignore the subject. If you have concerns about someone possibly being suicidal, it is better to ask than to ignore your instincts. If you are concerned that someone may be suicidal, encourage the individual to call, or at least write down, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) and the Maryland Crisis Hotline (800-422-0009). On campus, you or the suicidal person can call the Mental Health Service in the Health Center (301-314-8106), C.A.R.E. (301-741-3442 or the 34 hour line at 301-314-2222), or the HELP Center for peer-to-peer support (301-314-HELP). If an individual would benefit from religious counsel, you can also contact the Campus Chaplains (301-314-9893).