Each year, nearly eight million people in the U.S. have suicidal thoughts, another one million attempt suicide and over 30,000 die from suicide. Identifying the signs of suicide is an important first step in finding ways to prevent it from happening, says Heather Morse Hall, M.D., chair of the department of psychiatry at Newport Hospital and the medical director of the hospital’s behavioral health unit.
“No one is immune from suicide, it affects everyone, even teens and the elderly,” says Hall, noting that suicide is the third leading causing of death for teens and that the elderly have the highest suicide rates of any age group. “But there is so much we can do to prevent suicide by being aware of the signs and taking action.”
Knowing the signs is especially important as suicide draws worldwide attention as part of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. While over 30,000 people in the U.S. die from suicide each year, the number of people climbs to one million worldwide. Explained another way, one person dies every 40 seconds from suicide.
Hall explains Newport Hospital’s behavioral health unit, as well as its outpatient behavioral practice, treat many people who think about suicide.
“Many people see suicide as a way to escape something that has become unbearable. They are in so much pain they can’t see any other option to stop the pain,” says Hall. Often, suicide goes hand in hand with other mental health issues. “People suffering from a mental health disorder have a heightened risk of suicide.”
Suicide is especially prevalent when someone is suffering from any of the following:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Substance abuse issues
Whether or not someone has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder does not have to be a prerequisite for thinking about or attempting suicide. There are warning signs that everyone should be aware of, such as:
- Not eating or sleeping
- Withdrawing from others and favorite activities
- Dramatic mood swings
- Self-destructive behavior
- Talking about suicide or being preoccupied with death (this can include posts the person is making through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter)
Any of these signs, especially in combination with a mental health disorder, means it’s time to act and approach the person. “You can start by letting the person know that you are concerned, that they haven’t seemed like themselves lately,” says Hall. “By giving a suicidal person a chance to express his or her feelings, you may help prevent a suicide from happening.”
If you are uncomfortable approaching the person who is exhibiting the warning signs, Hall suggests reaching out to a close friend or family member who knows this person well. And, she says, if you feel the person is in immediate danger, call 911.
“Do not leave him or her alone and remove any weapons or drugs that can be used,” Hall adds. “Ultimately, you want to get your loved one or friend into a mental health setting, to a place where they can be safe. Remember to keep providing your support for the long haul.”
For more information about mental health services at Newport Hospital, visit the hospital’s website at www.newporthospital.org.