The Warning Signs of Suicide
Depression is the number one risk factor for suicide. In fact, 70 percent of all people who commit suicide are depressed. Although men attempt suicide only a third as often as do women, men are more likely to be successful in the attempt. The highest suicide rates are for men over age 85, but suicide also is the third leading cause of death among younger men aged 15 to 24 years. Married men are less likely to attempt or commit suicide than are separated, divorced, or widowed men. Facing adverse life events, such as financial loss, can alter the chemistry in the brain, increasing the risk for suicide, especially if the person already has an emotional disorder or is abusing drugs or alcohol. Risk factors for suicide include a family history of an emotional disorder, substance abuse, suicide, or physical or sexual abuse; a prior suicide attempt; having a gun in the home; imprisonment; impulsive behavior; and exposure to the suicidal behavior of others (especially for teens or young men).
A suicide attempt—or even talking about suicide—should never be dismissed as a mere attention-getting ploy. Attempted suicide is always a cry for help from a person who is usually battling some type of emotional disorder, such as depression, or a substance abuse problem. Most people with depression or substance abuse can be treated successfully and go on to lead healthy lives. If someone you know begins talking about or threatening to commit suicide, take the person seriously and try to get him or her to see a doctor, or call a suicide hot line. A suicide attempt is often preceded by certain telltale warning signs, such as:
• talking about suicide or death, even jokingly
• difficulty dealing with the loss of a loved one or some other adverse life event
• withdrawal from friends and activities
• hoarding of pills or purchase of a gun
• abuse of drugs or alcohol
• giving away prized possessions
• a previous suicide attempt
• writing notes or poems about death
• changes in eating or sleeping habits
• neglect of personal appearance
The best way to prevent a suicide attempt is to get professional help for an emotional disorder or substance-abuse problem. Recognition of depression in older men can go a long way toward preventing suicide, especially if they are living alone. Limiting access to guns, especially in combination with treatment of an emotional disorder, also is an effective way to prevent suicide attempts in high-risk men. If someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Posted in Mental Disorders