September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Alarmingly, the CDC recently reported that the number of suicides in the United States has been on the rise since 1999 among both men and women and in all age groups, and is the 10th leading cause of death. Suicide and suicidal ideation are often misunderstood, especially by those who may have never struggled with mental illness or addiction—although some experts say that most people have at least though about suicide at one point or another. It’s important to understand the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and to intervene if you know someone who needs help.
If you are currently in a crisis and feel that you have no reason to keep living, please call 1-800-273-TALK or go to www.suicideprevention.org to chat with someone online now.
The Mind of a Suicidal Person
In his book, The Suicidal Mind, Edwin Shneidman describes 10 commonalities among people who attempt or commit suicide.
- Common Purpose: A person who is having suicidal thoughts is seeking a solution to a problem that is causing them extreme emotional pain and suffering.
- Common Goal: The ultimate goal of suicide is an end to consciousness. People who have reached this point in their suffering may believe it is the only possible solution to the problem.
- Common stimulus: Thoughts of suicide and attempted suicide are typically the result of psychological pain that the person finds unacceptable and unbearable.
- Common Stressor: People who are suicidal often feel a sense of frustration over unmet psychological needs. For example, they may have a need for achievement, but feel they always fail; a need for nurturing, but feel that no one cares about them; or a need for connection, but feel that no one can ever understand them.
- Common Emotion: People having suicidal thoughts feel hopeless and helpless. They may also feel like they are not able to be “saved” or not worth saving.
- Common Cognitive State: Suicidal people tend to live in a state of ambivalence. They want to die, but at the same time, they want to be rescued.
- Common Perceptual State: People who are considering suicide often see their as being constricted. They often think they only have two choice—either continue suffering or die.
- Common Action: People who are having thoughts of suicide are typically trying to escape. They may see death as the ultimate escape that goes far beyond attempts to escape by running away from home, quitting a job, deserting the military or leaving a spouse or partner.
- Common Interpersonal Act: Most people who intend to commit suicide leave clues. They may show signals of distress, talk often about feeling of hopelessness or ask for help.
- Common Styles of Coping: A person’s present and past tendencies toward all or nothing thinking, escapism, control and other types of problematic coping styles might indicate a greater risk for suicidal ideation.
Who is Most at Risk for Suicide?
Although people who have considered or attempted suicide share many of these commonalties, they can also have many differences. People of all gender identities, ages, incomes, and ethnicities can be at risk for suicide.
Sometimes suicide is triggered by long-term factors, like childhood trauma, and sometimes it is triggered by more immediate factors, like recent hardships or stressful life events. Sometimes suicidal tendencies are brought on by mental illness, and sometimes it’s brought on by a complex interplay of several of these factors simultaneously.
However, most people at risk of suicide tend to share some characteristics. Some of the main risk factors for suicide are…
- A prior suicide attempt
- A family history of mental illness and/or addiction
- A family history of suicide
- A history of domestic violence
- A history of sexual abuse
- Being exposed to others suicidal behavior in your family or community
How Can I Help Someone Who is Suicidal?
If you know someone who is contemplating suicide, contact a crisis line, get them to the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911. If you can’t get them to the hospital right away, it’s important not to leave them alone. Stay with them, and if you can, remove any access they may have to firearms, medications, or anything that they could use to end their lives.
If you or someone you love is at higher risk for suicide, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has some excellent tips for developing a Wellness Recovery Action Plan to refer to in case of a suicidal crisis.
Treatment for Suicidal Behaviors and Suicidal Ideation
For someone who’s thought are consumed with ending his or her life the process of finding treatment can be intimidating and confusing. Some people who fit this description actually might not meet the requirements for entering into an inpatient mental health program like the ones we offer at The Meadows. That’s because there’s a difference between individuals who are actively suicidal and those who are having suicidal thoughts.
Generally speaking, those who are experiencing suicidal ideation have had thoughts about ending their lives but have no real plans to do so. Those who are actively suicidal tend to have plans laid and out and have taken steps toward ending their lives.
Typically, when a person contacts an inpatient hospital or program to discuss their issues the intake specialist will go over your past history and the precipitating events that initiated the call. If the intake specialist finds that the person is actively suicidal and in danger of harming him or herself, they may recommend that they be admitted to an inpatient treatment program that can provide acute care and around-the-clock direct monitoring.
If the intake specialist believes that the person can be safely and effectively treated in a less intensive setting, they may recommend a partial hospitalization (PHP) or residential treatment program. People who have been in an acute, hospital inpatient setting can also enter PHP or residential treatment program once they have stabilized and gotten clearance from their doctor(s).
If you’d like to learn more about treatment options for yourself or for a loved one who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, feel free to give us a call at 866-331-7179. We’d be happy to help in any way we can.