Did you know that each year in the United States, more people die of suicide than of homicide? In 2004, suicide accounted for 32,439 deaths in the U.S., but over 750,000 people actually attempted to take their own lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Suicide is also the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24.|
About 18 million Americans suffer from depression, and untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. Fortunately, there are lots of things that you can do to prevent a friend or loved one from choosing suicide as a solution to their problems. But first, it's important to dispel some of the myths that get in the way of suicide prevention. Here are some common myths and facts:
Myth #1: A person who talks about committing suicide rarely follows through. He is probably just trying to get attention.
Fact: Actually, two-thirds of people talked about their intentions before committing suicide. Rather than "crying wolf" just to get attention, they are more likely reaching out for help because they are experiencing overwhelming pain. If someone you know has mentioned the desire to die by suicide, take her seriously and act immediately. (See “How to Help” below.)
Myth #2: You shouldn’t even mention the word “suicide” around someone who is depressed or possibly suicidal. They might take this as a suggestion and act on it.
Fact: It is imperative to talk openly about suicide to someone who may be considering it. Talking to him can help you to gauge whether or not he is seriously considering suicide. Talking about suicide may also prompt the person to seek help. Ask him directly whether or not his depression is severe enough that he is considering suicide. (See “How to Help” below.)
Myth #3: If a person is taking antidepressants, she is not at risk for attempting suicide.
Fact: Sometimes the decrease in depressive symptoms that results from taking antidepressants can actually give the patient more energy to act on the suicidal thoughts. Make sure the person who is taking the antidepressants is aware of this risk, and watch for suicide warning signs. . (See “How to Help” below.)
Myth #4: Most people who commit suicide do so impulsively, without showing any warning signs.
Fact: Most suicidal individuals plan their attempt in advance and give clues that it will happen. Nearly 80 percent of people who commit suicide will exhibit warning signs beforehand. Although you might not always see warning signs when someone is suicidal, any and all warning signs you see should be taken seriously.
Common suicide warning signs include:
How to Help
Suicide is preventable. Follow the steps below to help a person who shows warning signs for suicide.
For more information about helping a suicidal person, visit www.suicide.org.