Laurie struggled with anxiety for most of her life. She was frightened in school, felt pressured to get high grades and go to college, and began drinking and using drugs while in high school. She attempted suicide her first year in college, at a time when she felt especially alone.
Each and every day across the world, between 800,000 and 1 million people die by suicide—one every 40 seconds. In the United States, that number is approximately 45,000—one every 12 minutes. Globally, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for those age 15 to 29 years. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. Suicide occurs across all demographic groups and is now a leading cause of death for teens, veterans, the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual or Allied, “Others”) community, the American Indian/Alaskan Native population, and elders.
Suicide—the taking of your own life—is a tragic reaction to stressful life circumstances. It is a complex issue with many possible causes and risk factors. Suicide is tragic because it can be prevented. Learning the warning signs and how to reach out for immediate help and professional treatment can save a life.
There are many warning signs for someone at risk for suicide. The following are just some of them:
- Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Looking for a way to kill themselves (such as searching online, buying a weapon, or stockpiling pills)
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated or behaving recklessly
- Changing normal routine, including eating, grooming, or sleeping patterns
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Extreme mood swings
- Preoccupation with death, dying, or violence
- Depression, anxiety, agitation, and/or anger
- Loss of interest in life or things that used to bring pleasure
- Relief/Sudden improvement
There are many factors that can make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Most often, suicidal thoughts occur when someone is faced with what appears to be an overwhelming life situation. The person may think he or she has no future and that suicide is the solution.
include (but are not limited to):
- Mental health disorders, particularly mood disorders, conduct disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
- Serious physical health conditions (including pain)
- Traumatic brain injury
- Major physical illnesses
- Physical or medical issue (such as being pregnant)
- Alcohol and other substance use disorders
- Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
- Cultural or religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution for a personal dilemma
- Job or financial loss
- Loss of relationship(s)
- Easy access to lethal means
- Lack of social support and sense of isolation
- Stressful life events, such as rejection, divorce (especially in countries where unilateral diverse laws are common), financial crisis, or other life transitions or loss
- Being the victim of bullying or discrimination (especially among refugees, migrants, indigenous peoples, LGBTQIA+ persons, and prisoners)
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- History of trauma, neglect, or abuse
With early intervention, assessment, and treatment, lives can be saved. There are many options for individuals, families, and healthcare providers including medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If you or anyone you know might need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)—a 24-hour, toll-free crisis line—for assistance.