Questions and Answers About Suicide [downloadable]
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) answers questions about suicide and suicidal thoughts/behaviors in young people including risk factors, warning signs, resources, social media, reporting on suicide, and prevention.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10–24. Although these numbers may make suicide seem common, it is still a rare event. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are more common than suicide deaths and are signs of extreme distress.
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are not harmless bids for attention and should not be ignored.
What are some of the risks factors for suicide?
Risk factors vary with age, gender, or ethnic group and may change over time. Some factors that increase an individual’s risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors are:
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
- Substance abuse disorder
- Chronic pain
- Prior suicide attempt
- Family history of suicide
- Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
- Firearms in the home
- Having recently been released from jail or prison
- Exposure to suicidal behavior of others, such as family members or peers
It is important to note that many people who have these risk factors are not suicidal.
What are the warning signs?
The following are some of the signs you might notice in yourself or a friend that may be reason for concern:
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill oneself
- Making a plan or looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online
- Buying a gun, or stockpiling pills
- Feeling empty, hopeless, or feeling like there is no reason to live
- Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing from family or friends or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Saying good-bye to loved ones, putting affairs in order
Seeking help is a sign of strength; if you are concerned, go with your instincts and seek professional help. Reaching out to a friend you are concerned about is also a sign of strength.
What can I do for myself or someone else?
Immediate action is very important. Here are a few resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : 1-800-273-TALK (8255), confidential help 24-hours-a-day. You can also visit the Lifeline’s website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Crisis Text Line : text START to 741–741
- HealthReach , information available in multiple languages: www.healthreach.nlm.nih.gov/searchindex/Suicide
- Help for Mental Illnesses: National Institute of Mental Health web page www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp
What if someone seems suicidal on social media?
Many social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Google+, have ways to report suicidal content and get help for the content creator. Each social media site has a different procedure, so search the site’s help page for assistance.
You may download NIMH Answers Questions About Suicide as a PDF.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health| Answers Questions About Suicide, https://www.nimh.nih.gov | Last revised 2016
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