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Suicide Prevention: Be Aware and Show You Care

December 24, 2021

Suicide prevention is vital for everyone to understand, including the signs to look for and steps to take if someone you care about is at risk.

You might not realize who may have thought about taking their own life. It could be your sibling, your friend, your parent, your coworker. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34 and the fourth-leading cause among people ages 35 to 44.

Deaths from suicide have been on the rise. The rate increased 33% between 1999 and 2019. The recent pandemic, social unrest, and other current events have increased stress and isolation for many people. Anthem’s May 2021 Mental Health Report showed an increase in diagnoses for anxiety and PTSD in 2020. This makes suicide prevention efforts even more important.

The link between suicide and mental health struggles emphasizes how important it is to address physical and mental health equally and in tandem for our best quality of life. Mental health is health.

By learning about suicide prevention resources, you can be prepared to help someone you care about, or help yourself.

If you are thinking about harming yourself, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.

Signs of suicide risk

Certain people are at higher risk of considering, attempting, or dying by suicide. Knowing these risk factors can help you support them.

This includes individuals who have experienced:

  • Mental health conditions — especially mood and anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, or certain personality disorders.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Trauma or abuse.
  • Major physical illnesses.
  • Death by suicide among family members and/or friends.
  • Loss of a meaningful relationship.
  • Significant financial distress.
  • Lack of social support and isolation.

Warning signs that someone is considering suicide may be subtle. Pay particular attention to behavior that is unusual for the person, has increased, or is related to a painful event in their life.

What to listen for:

  • References to dying or having no reason to live.
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others or being worthless.

Behavior to watch for:

  • Acquiring items the person could use to hurt themselves, such as weapons or drugs.
  • Social media posts indicating hopelessness, loneliness, or death wishes.
  • Behaving recklessly.
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Extreme mood swings, such as rage or inconsolable grief.
  • Withdrawing or avoiding contact.
  • Sleeping and/or eating too much or too little.

If you think someone you care about is considering harming themselves, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat online.

Steps to take for suicide prevention

How do you know if someone you care about is just going through a rough time or is actually considering suicide?

The best way to find out is to ask them directly. Research suggests talking about suicidal thoughts with someone who cares may reduce the chances the person will act on their plan.

Asking someone if they are considering suicide can be difficult. What they say may be upsetting. It is important to remember it is not about you, and to allow them room to be honest. Simply listening and showing interest in the person's emotions can help them feel better.

You may also be able to support the person by taking other steps, including:

  • Reducing access to means of self-harm, such as weapons, drugs, and alcohol.
  • Reaching out to them and listening to what they say without judgment.
  • Encouraging them to connect with a trained counselor or mental health provider.
  • Educating yourself about suicide prevention and sharing resources with them.

Suicide prevention resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. Soon a new three-digit dialing code will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988. It works in some areas already, and it will be available across the United States by July 16, 2022.

Many organizations offer support for those who are considering suicide and those who care about them. #BeThe1To provides easy-to-understand action steps and resources for a variety of situations. It also provides materials in Spanish.

Thousands of support groups are available across the United States for those who are considering suicide and those who have lost a loved one to suicide. The American Association of Suicidology offers a searchable directory.

Several online resources offer tips on how to approach the conversation with someone you are concerned about. They also include questions to ask and additional “dos and don’ts” for interacting with a person who is suicidal.

Anthem also offers a library of resources for mental health and substance abuse issues specific to unique populations. Resources like these can help those struggling before issues escalate to an even greater life-threatening level.

Being prepared to help someone who is contemplating suicide can potentially prevent a tragedy. By taking a few moments to familiarize yourself with warning signs, resources, and ways to reach out, you can be there for those you love.