Rapidly rising suicide rates are the health crisis too few are talking about.
For every suicide, there are at least 25 suicide attempts. Suicide rates increased by 25% across the United States between 1999 and 2016 (US CDC, 2018).
When it comes to suicide, it is easy to be ignorant. No one wants to believe that a friend or close loved one would consider taking his or her own life. And it can be hard to tell when someone who seems to have it all is, in reality, struggling in life.
Suicide Awareness: What You Should Know
Despite the difficulty in addressing suicide, it is vital that we do so. Suicide doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. A person who might be considering suicide typically exhibits at least one warning sign, signs that everyone should be aware of, especially those in military families.
- Ideation—thoughts of personal harm expressed, threatened, written, or hinted
- Substance abuse—increased or excessive use of alcohol or drugs
- Purposelessness—having no sense of meaning or purpose in life
- Anxiety—feeling agitated, anxious, unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time
- Trapped—feeling like there is no way out
- Hopelessness—feeling hopeless about self, others, or the future
- Withdrawal—isolation from family, friends, usual activity, or society
- Anger—feeling rage or uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge
- Recklessness—acting without regard for consequences, engaging in risky behavior
- Mood changes—drastic changes in mood
Suicidal thoughts are often a result of untreated mental illness, especially depression. It is thought that most suicides result from a person’s belief that he or she is no longer effective, is a burden to others, or doesn’t belong. Many times, however, that person is reluctant to seek help on his or her own. Military members may refrain from asking for help because they are worried about their job or career, they do not want negative perceptions about themselves, or they already feel disconnected and isolated.
Even if a person can’t help themselves, their friends and loved ones can. If you suspect someone might be at risk for suicide, do not take it lightly. Let the person know you are concerned about them and follow these steps to ACT:
Acknowledge: Ask if they are thinking about hurting themselves. Actively listen and acknowledge their talk, behavior, and feelings.
Care: Let the person know they are not alone, and that you care and understand. Discuss what is troubling them.
Treatment: Take action immediately to find professional help. Call 911 or take the person to the emergency room or a medical caregiver. Find the duty officer or Chaplain. Never leave the person alone.
Knowing the warning signs of suicide and how to care for a person who is suicidal can be life-saving. Take the time to educate yourself and others about suicide and know what resources are available for seeking help.
Suicide is a serious but preventable public health problem. If you or a loved one need help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org .