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With the recent deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and CNN’s traveling gourmand Anthony Boudain the country is once again talking about suicide and their deaths have sparked an increase to suicide hot lines across the country. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the suicide rate has risen in the US by 25% since 1999.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the US. Suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but suicide is rarely caused by any single factor. In fact, many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Other problems often contribute to suicide, such as those related to relationships, substance use, physical health, and job, money, legal, or housing stress. Making sure government, public health, healthcare, employers, education, the media and community organizations are working together is important for preventing suicide. Public health departments can bring together these partners to focus on comprehensive state and community efforts with the greatest likelihood of preventing suicide.
What is most important to know is that suicide is preventable. Here are some of the things that each of us can do to help a friend or family member who may be at risk:
Know the risk factors. The CDC has a list of the most common factors
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of child maltreatment
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
- Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
- Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
- Physical illness
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts
This is what you can do to help:
Ask someone you are worried about if they’re thinking about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask. Be there for them and listen to their needs. Sometimes just knowing that there is a person they can turn to is enough but don’t stop there. Encourage them to get help and keep checking on them to see how they are doing. Also, it in important to keep them safe by reducing access to lethal means for those at risk.
Help them connect with ongoing support like the Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), even if you’re the one to make the initial call. Encourage them to talk to the counselor.