Before the pandemic, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States with an average of 132 Americans dying by suicide each day. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that 90% of those who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.
What can we do to prevent suicides?
It’s more important than ever before to remain connected to those we love, especially if you suspect someone close to you may be struggling during this time. While it’s difficult to be physically close, we have multiple resources available to make sure we maintain our relationships with others.
Take time to reach out to your loved ones on a regular basis and offer support if they need it. On the other hand, let others know if you’re struggling and be patient with yourself and others as we all learn new routines and innovative ways to maintain bonds with each other.
What are the warning signs of suicidal thoughts?
SuicideisPreventable.org is an excellent resource for recognizing the signs that someone is thinking about suicide and what action you can take to help them.
If you notice any of these behaviors in a friend, family member or yourself, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
- Talking about death or suicide
- Seeking methods for self-harm, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
Other common signs include:
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Uncontrolled anger
- Reckless behavior
- Changes in sleep
- Having no sense of purpose
- Putting affairs in order
- Giving away possessions
- Anxiety or agitation
- Sudden mood changes
- Talking about being a burden to others
The warning signs can be different for people at various stages of life. For example, teens might experience sudden mood changes or neglect their personal appearance while an older adult might become preoccupied with death or ignore their doctor’s orders.
Regardless of age, any of these signs can indicate that someone needs help.
What can we do to help?
If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, it can be difficult to approach the subject. Here are some helpful tips:
- Gather a list of resources such as those available at SuicideisPreventable.org or at the bottom of this page.
- Listen to their reasons for living or dying. Express your concern and emphasize their reasons for living.
- Make a plan and ask if they have access to lethal means such as weapons or drugs. Help remove them. Never put yourself in danger. Call 911 if you are concerned about your own safety.
- Get help by providing the person with the resources you prepared. If the situation is critical, take the person to a nearby emergency room or crisis center or call 911.
There are some phrases and reactions you should avoid. Being frustrated or scared is understandable, but remember to remain calm. Here’s what not to say:
- Don’t ask questions that necessitate them saying ‘no’ such as “You’re not thinking about doing something stupid, are you?”
- Don’t encourage them to follow through with a suicidal plan. Getting angry or showing frustration is the worst thing you can do, as it can cause them to shut down or reject further help from you.
- Don’t promise to keep their feelings or plan a secret – when you know that’s not in their best interest. Don’t tell them, “You’re secret is safe with me.” Instead, tell them, “I care about you too much to keep this secret. You need help, and I’m here to help you get it.”
You may be concerned that they will be upset with you, but when someone’s life is at risk, it’s important to first ensure their safety.
Reach out to trained counselors
These are difficult times. If you’re thinking about suicide or are concerned about someone who is, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Their experienced counselors are always available to talk, help you navigate the situation and answer any questions. Remember, you’re not alone and help is a phone call away.
Additional Crisis Resources
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741-741
- National Helpline (substance abuse and mental health): Call 1-800-662-4357
- StartYourRecovery.org: Drug and alcohol rehab centers, counseling and support in San Antonio
- Bexar County Department of Behavioral Health mental health and COVID-19 resources