In 2019, the most recent year of data from the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Among the ages of 10 and 34, it is the second leading cause; among ages 35 and 44, it is the fourth leading cause.
“Suicide is a major public health concern, especially in younger populations,” said Richard Nenneau, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services at Penn Highlands Healthcare. “The causes of suicide are complicated, but it is often preventable.”
One of the ways that we all can help prevent suicide is by knowing the warning signs. These behaviors may be a sign that someone is thinking about suicide:
- talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves;
- talking about feeling empty, hopeless or having no reason to live;
- making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills or buying a gun;
- talking about great guilt or shame;
- talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions;
- feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain);
- talking about being a burden to others;
- using alcohol or drugs more often;
- acting anxious or agitated;
- withdrawing from family and friends;
- changing eating and/or sleeping habits;
- showing rage or talking about seeking revenge;
- taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast;
- talking or thinking about death often;
- displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy;
- giving away important possessions;
- saying goodbye to friends and family;
- putting affairs in order, making a will.
If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has increased recently.
“It can be difficult to know how to help someone who may be considering suicide,” said Richard Nenneau. “There are five actions you can take to help someone in emotional pain. One, ask if they are thinking about suicide. Research shows that asking does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts. Two, reduce access to lethal items or places. Three, listen carefully and acknowledge their feelings. Four, help them connect with a trusted family member, friend, spiritual advisor, mental health professional or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. Five, stay connected. Research shows that suicides decrease when someone follows up after the crisis.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. Learn more on the Lifeline’s website or the Crisis Text Line’s website.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects Service members and Veterans in crisis, as well as their family members and friends, with qualified, caring Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat or text messaging service. Dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone or send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder. You can also start a confidential online chat session at Veterans Crisis Chat.
Penn Highlands Healthcare offers comprehensive inpatient and outpatient behavioral and mental health services at locations throughout the region. To learn more, please visit www.phhealthcare.org/bhs.