Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people. It has become a topic of national conversation and for good reason; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of suicidal behavior have been steadily rising in the United States.
Most people who seriously consider or attempt suicide have one or more of the following risk factors:
- A personal or family history of suicide attempts.
- A family history of suicide attempts or completed suicide.
- A personal or family history of severe anxiety, depression or other mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) or schizophrenia.
- An alcohol or drug problem (substance abuse problem), such as alcoholism.
Warning signs can vary depending on a person’s age. In general, those at a higher risk for suicide may exhibit the following:
- Depression or other mental health condition, such as severe anxiety, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) or schizophrenia.
- Depression followed by sudden cheerfulness and contentment, which may mean the person has decided to finalize a suicide plan.
- A previous suicide attempt.
- Alcohol or substance abuse.
- Giving away personal possessions.
- Being preoccupied with death in conversation, writing or drawing.
People who have suicidal thoughts may not seek help because they feel they cannot be helped. This usually is not the case. Many people with suicidal thoughts have medical conditions that can be successfully treated. It is important to seek help when suicidal thoughts occur because medical treatment is usually successful in diminishing these thoughts.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, urge them to seek treatment. For immediate assistance, call the Cone Health helpline at 336-832-9700.
John Clapacs, MD, is a psychiatrist with Alamance Regional Psychiatric Associates and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. Dr. Clapacs completed medical school and residency at Duke University School of Medicine and Duke University Medical Center.