Suicide: The Warning Signs and What to do

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Every 40 seconds somewhere around the world someone dies by suicide, that’s 99 people every 66 minutes. Alcohol makes people more prone to committing suicide by violent methods like hanging, using a firearm or by falling to death, says a new study. Nearly, one-fourth of all suicide cases studied reported that the victim had blood alcohol levels of at least 0.08 g/dL. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, and the fourth leading cause of death among 25 to 44-year-olds in the United States. Only 20 percent of the population is over 60, but 40 percent of suicide victims come from this age group. After age 75, the rate is three times higher than average, and among white men over 80, it is six times higher than average. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 1 percent of all deaths. More years of life are lost to suicide than to any other single cause except heart disease and cancer. On average, there is one death from suicide every 85 minutes across the UK and Ireland. In 2009 there were over 6,200 deaths by suicide across the UK and Republic of Ireland. 18 American veterans kill themselves a day. 1,000 former soldiers receiving care from the Department of Veterans Affairs attempt suicide every month. More Veterans are completing suicide than are dying in combat overseas. In 2005, over 6,200 veterans completed suicide-120 per week. 70% of people who die by suicide tell someone about it in advance, and most are not in treatment Suicide hurts all of us—parents, children, siblings, friends, lovers and spouses. The loss for society is psychological, spiritual, and financial. Understanding suicide requires looking at all of the factors that underlie this complex and intensely emotional issue and applying logic and reason, even in the face of sadness and despair. A study of people who nearly died in a suicide attempt were asked: “How much time passed between the time you decided to complete suicide and when you actually attempted suicide?” (Simon 2001) 24% said less than five minutes Another 47% said an hour or less Although some people who die by suicide plan their act carefully, many don’t. In fact, many take their lives within 24 hours of a crisis—like an argument with a family member or a relationship break-up.

Know What to Do

Stigma associated with mental illnesses can prevent people from getting help. Your willingness to talk about mental or emotional issues and suicide with a friend, family member, or co-worker can be the first step in getting them help and preventing suicide.

If You See the Warning Signs of Suicide…

Begin a dialogue by asking questions. Suicidal thoughts are common with some mental illnesses and your willingness to talk about it in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way can be the help a person needs to seeking professional help. Questions okay to ask: “Do you ever feel so badly that you think about suicide?” “Do you have a plan to commit suicide or take your life?” “Have you thought about when you would do it (today, tomorrow, next week)?” “Have you thought about what method you would use?” Asking these questions will help you to determine if your friend or family members is in immediate danger, and get help if needed. A suicidal person should see a doctor or mental health professional immediately.  Remember, always take thoughts of or plans for suicide seriously. Never keep a plan for suicide a secret. Don’t worry about risking a friendship if you truly feel a life is in danger. You have bigger things to worry about-someone’s life might be in danger! It is better to lose a relationship from violating a confidence than it is to go to a funeral. And most of the time they will come back and thank you for saving their life. Don’t try to minimise problems or shame a person into changing their mind. Your opinion of a person’s situation is irrelevant. Trying to convince a person suffering with a mental illness that it’s not that bad, or that they have everything to live for may only increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Reassure them that help is available, that what they are experiencing is treatable, and that suicidal feelings are temporary. Life can get better! If you feel the person isn’t in immediate danger, acknowledge the pain is legitimate and offer to work together to get help. Make sure you follow through. This is one instance where you must be tenacious in your follow-up. Help find a doctor or a mental health professional, participate in making the first phone call, or go along to the first appointment. If you’re in a position to help, don’t assume that your persistence is unwanted or intrusive. Risking your feelings to help save a life is a risk worth taking. (
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner's approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients' internal "parts," or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.

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This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Paula

    The stigma behind wanting to die is so muddy and deep. People fear being considered weak or unable to deal with life “like everyone else”. The reality is that we all struggle, at least those of us with compassion and a conscience. And those who contemplate suicide are often the strongest and most compassionate among us. To sacrifice their own lives in order to save their loved ones more pain and heartache is often at the core of their reasoning. Convincing a person that they are not alone in their despair and that there is someone willing to help them is the hardest part. Veterans feel abandoned by the very system that forced the trauma and abuse upon them in the first place. The US military takes idealistic men and women and brainwashes them into thinking fighting and killing is somehow noble and necessary. How twisted! No wonder so many just want to end their lives. It’s like their entire understanding of reality and goodness has been turned upside-down and backwards. They no longer want to be a part of an existence that counters what they THOUGHT to be true about goodness and life. They lived through hell and can’t forget that hell and somehow feel guilty for surviving it while others perished. 🙁

  2. Paula

    Reblogged this on Paula's Pontifications and commented:
    You are not weak or less of a person if you have ever contemplated suicide. And there are many of us in this world who feel ashamed, guilty and at a loss for having survived something that others have not. Pass this along to your loved ones. You have no idea who may be suffering or feeling like no one understands their pain. Unfortunately, too many of us understand it but are too afraid to talk about it. ~ Paula

  3. Good post Paula!!
    suicide, like domestic violence; is another “tabu” topic that makes people uncomfortable and is misunderstood. The only way to end suicides is to discuss it openly and without judgement.
    Yes!! a person who discusses and/or attempts suicide is seeking attention!

  4. Reblogged this on Ladywithatruck's Blog and commented:
    Another tabu topic that needs to be discussed in order to remove the stigma attached to it. Never dismiss someone who sounds suicidal, don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
    Like domestic violence, suicide makes people uncomfortable; discussing it openly and honestly removes the stigma attached.
    So many times people dismiss someone’s talk or attempted suicide as “attention seeking”. No kidding Sherlock!! Its pretty frickin’ obvious that if a person is suicidal they are feeling alone, hopeless and need attention!

  5. Stigma indeed. And we’d like to see that stigma removed so people with mental illness would be more willing to seek help. Maybe part of the problem is our widespread beliefs about the definition of mental illness.
    When we get a common cold we are ill. When we get cancer or heart disease we are ill. But we don’t view those two illnesses in the same way, nor should we. Given the number of people affected and the short time frame reported for so many between the thought and the action, maybe we can categorize suicidal thoughts as something other than “mental illness,” where we tend to think in terms of the need for heavy, long-term treatment and even institutionalizing.
    Suicidal thoughts seem to be as common as the common cold, and as temporary—except for the successful attempts, which is where the tragedy lies. But if we made the subject of suicidal thoughts easier to talk about and seek help for without the stigma, it could (a) help people get over these temporary times of despair, and (b) open the door for treatment of underlying, more serious issues when they exist.
    So I would like to see us talk about having suicidal thoughts as a really common occurrence—which it is. I think a lot of people, when stressed and discouraged and seeing no clear answers out of a currently unbearable situation, turn to fantasies of not having to be here anymore to deal with the pain. Suicidal ideation becomes a place to go for temporary relief. So we need to de-stigmatize that as “mental illness” and talk about how common it is at the same time that we talk about how not-helpful it is, instead helping people learn healthy coping methods. This could be done in the form of public service messages, much as we have for other health issues, such as good nutrition.

    1. That would be a great way to deal with the stigma of suicide. I believe you are correct when you say that many people flirt with the idea of ending it all and probably more than we all think.

  6. I can answer yes to 3 out of the 4 questions. The one thing I have not thought about is the when—. My suicidal thoughts get triggered when I feel hopless that life is going to get any better. Truly if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness I would really be okay with that. We live in a world where the anomoly, the artist, is not truly supported at least not in my family—and some of us would prefer to die than to just become a robot of a society that seems to have lost all sense of love, compassion and emapathy for all sentient forms of life. I remember being 8 years old and wanting to die. I don’t know what happened, if anything at all to make me feel that way. And to be quite honest–I don’t want to know what happened–let it stay buried in my psyche–it’s hard enough healing the injuries I do remember. And it’s quite funny how people don’t you seriously when you talk about stuff like this—or just give you a pithy epithat as if that is the magical answer–sorry but saying, “don’t worry be happy” doesn’t always work.

  7. I don’t like these stats at all. It is so disturbing to know that someone suicidal believes that what they are doing is actually “good”… preventing themselves from being a “burden” …. which is actually the farthest from the truth. Thank you for this article. It must be discussed openly to remove the stigma and hopefully getting those who have suicidal tendencies to open up and seek help.

  8. Miss P

    That is unreal, I never knew the statistics. Hard topic for me to read as I will say I contemplated it intensely about five years ago. I still seek counseling and help, but the age statistics is frightening. My daughter is almost 15 and suffers from deep depression and anxiety. Her father has her most of the time, is hard for me to talk to her, but I have talked to her father and I pray each day for her.

  9. Certainly people with terminal illnesses often contemplate suicide, and I’ve noticed that having that final exit open to them seems to reduce their pain and anxiety, especially Hospice patients. I wonder why the same effect doesn’t present itself to those in the full flush of life. Any ideas?

    1. Thanks for the comment. If I understand you correctly, you are asking why people who lead functional lives do not contemplate suicide? Who knows, maybe they do at times but can think clearly enough in order to rationalize. When you are at such a point that dying is preferable to living or dying is the only way out, then that rationality goes. However, suicide is such that some never give any kind of sign thst they are in that thought process.

  10. Deuphoria

    I have had suicidal ideation off and on for years because of anti psychotics I could not take. Now the law is trying to force me to take meds I can’t take. I can’t find a Psychiatrist to help me live without that class of drugs. I’m also in legal trouble because three years ago I had nervous breakdown when my husband told me to move out. I broken down and threw plants on the floor.

    He called police and I ended in in mental health probation that they won’t let me escape from. Now I’m trying to find out if my civil rights are being threatened they might even take away my benefits if someone finds out there is a bench warrant for me.

    I feel like I want to be dead..but have grown son and want to live for him. Everyday I wake up terribly depressed. I realize without money I can’t even hire a lawyer.

    Thanks for this post. I’m writing a film/documentary on the stigma of mental illness and to fight suicide. I’m a warrior but I’m losing my will as I am alone with no support to help myself.


  11. Kay

    I think about it all day long. I tried it once and they found me. When I woke up I thought I was in Heaven, there were bright lights all around me. The hospital soon turned cold when I heard her voice say to me ” Why did you think you could embarrass me by doing something like this?” While squeezing my cheeks together and pressing her body forcefully against mine she continued, “You might have thought doing something like this would get you some attention but it’s not going too. You should be the one that’s embarrassed because you even screwed this up. It’s just one thing after another with you little girl. You might of been better off if we hadn’t of found you.”
    Those are words from a mother’s mouth to a daughter she hated from the minute she was born. Suicide to me isn’t about being weak it’s about being strong enough to get the job done right. I promised myself that day that if I ever tried it again that I would be smarter and stronger the next time and I would get the job done right.