World Suicide Prevention Day, observed every year on September 10th, is a day when the world comes together to raise awareness about a global crisis that often hides in the shadows. Eighty percent of all deaths by suicide in the U.S. are among men and women aged 45-54. Middle-aged people, especially men, are at the highest risk for suicide in this country because they are likelier to have lost a job or become unemployed, experienced a recent divorce or relationship breakup, or dealt more with physical health problems and stressors.
Suicide is a complex topic, and it is difficult to identify a particular cause. Many factors contribute to suicide, including mental health issues, life events, and stressors. It can also be triggered by stressful events such as the death of a loved one or an illness, but the most common cause of suicide is depression.
Discussing suicide requires addressing its underlying major causes, like depression, with it standing out as the foremost contributor. The persistent, overwhelming despair accompanying depression can ultimately lead individuals to contemplate and, tragically, act upon suicidal thoughts as a perceived escape from their suffering. It saps the motivation to seek help or engage in coping strategies and mental health support, rendering individuals vulnerable to the despairing thoughts of suicide as a perceived means of escape from their torment.
Dr. Abigail Johnson of Johnson Behavioral Health Group states, “Depression is a mental condition that can cause a person to feel hopeless, sad, and irritable. Suicide risk factors and its symptoms can vary from person to person. Still, common signs include loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating on tasks or making decisions, changes in sleep patterns (either increased or decreased), and changes in appetite (either eating too much or too little). Depression is not something you can “snap out” of–it is an illness that must be treated with medication and counseling.
Dr. Johnson added, “When we have a high-profile situation like this, we need to use that situation and raise awareness because people think suicide is often selfish, and it’s not. A lot of times, people choose to commit suicide because they feel hopeless. They don’t see anything other than what they experience at the moment, which is despair, depression, hurt, and anxiety, and they can’t see past that. That’s their only way. And a lot of times, they feel overwhelmed with life.”
It is crucial to identify the symptoms of depression. Depression can be difficult to recognize, especially in the beginning stages. It can be challenging to realize that they are depressed or that their loved ones are depressed. Many factors contribute to suicide rates, including genetics, mental illness, and substance abuse. The upcoming holiday season is when people often feel more isolated and lonely, which can lead them to think about suicide more often than usual.
Warning Signs of Suicide
When someone is depressed or suicidal, they may not be able to see the warning signs that can lead to worsening symptoms. Friends and family members need to be aware of these symptoms and act before it worsens. According to Dr. Johnson, a person who is feeling suicidal may have some of these warning signs of suicide:
Statements of them wanting to die
Great guilt or shame
Fear of being a burden to others
Feel hopeless about the future
Difficulty sleeping, eating or concentrating
More irritable than usual
Physical problems such as stomach problems, headaches, etc.
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions
Suicide is a prevalent and ever-growing issue in our society. It’s our job to educate ourselves and others that there is life and hope past those hopeless moments. Family members can help by learning about the warning signs of suicide. They can also encourage the person to talk about their feelings and seek help from a mental health professional or counselor.
Slow down and pay attention to our loved ones and their behavior patterns. Don’t be afraid to have tough, uncomfortable conversations with them to show that you are ready to listen and prepared for anything deep. Check on that strong family member or friend who always makes people laugh; they may really be struggling deep inside. You never know what people are going through. Call them and say, “I love you. I am checking in on you.”
It is important to be supportive. This does not mean that you should agree with their decision, but rather that you should listen and try to understand why they feel this way. It is also essential to keep the person’s confidence and not judge them. Check on them regularly and maintain contact.
If you are experiencing depressive symptoms, see a medical provider. The suicide rate is on the rise, and it is vital to be aware of the warning signs and know there is help. There are treatments available to help with depression, and it is never too late to get help for yourself or someone you care about who may be struggling with depression. Medication can help with depression, but talking to your doctor about what will work best for you is important. Let’s work together to combat the suicide stigma and initiate a dialogue to raise awareness about this critical issue.