Sudden, dramatic, unexplained change in a
typical behavior pattern (e.g. a penny pincher donating a
large sum of money; a non-drinker suddenly begins drinking
to excess; a highly social person becomes withdrawn)
- Recovering suddenly from a severe depression
- Change in school or work performance
- Sudden resignation from clubs/organizations
- Buying a gun
- Planning for own death (e.g. will or funeral
arrangements or giving away important possessions
- Preoccupation with death
- Verbal clues—blatant pronouncements such as
“I just wish I were dead” or comments about suicidal
fantasies or more subtle statements such as “I don’t
think I can take it anymore” or “ Life has lost its
meaning for me” or “Nobody needs me anymore” or
“They would be better off without me”. Verbal clues are
the type of warning sign you will be most likely to
encounter as a volunteer.
- High risk or self-destructive behave
is an easy mnemonic to remember these warning signs:
IS PATH WARM?
S Substance Abuse
M Mood Changes
- Suicide took the lives of 30,622 people in
2001 (CDC 2004).
- Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death
for all U.S. men (Anderson and Smith 2003).
- Males are four times more likely to die from
suicide than females (CDC 2004).
- Women report attempting suicide during their
lifetime about three times as often as men (Krug et al.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death
among young people ages 15 to 24. In 2001, 3,971 suicides
were reported in this group (Anderson and Smith 2003).
- Of the total number of suicides among ages 15
to 24 in 2001, 86% (n=3,409) were male and 14% (n=562) were
female (Anderson and Smith 2003).
Why Do People Commit Suicide?
A suicide attempt is a clear indication that something
is gravely wrong in a person’s life. No matter the race or
age of the person; how rich or poor they are, it is true
that most people who commit suicide have a mental or
emotional disorder. The most common underlying disorder is
depression, 30% to 70% of suicide victims suffer from major
depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder.
Remember: Eight out of ten suicidal persons give
some sign of their intentions. People who talk about
suicide, threaten to commit suicide, or call suicide crisis
centers are 30 times more likely than average to kill
should you do if someone tells you they are thinking
If someone tells
you they are thinking about suicide, you should take their
distress seriously, listen nonjudgmental, and help them get
to a professional for evaluation and treatment. People
consider suicide when they are hopeless and unable to see
alternative solutions to problems. Suicidal behavior is
most often related to a mental disorder (depression) or to
alcohol or other substance abuse. Suicidal behavior is also
more likely to occur when people experience stressful
events. If someone is in imminent danger of harming
himself/herself, do not leave the person alone. Call ACCESS
Services at 961-8400 (RAFT after 4pm and weekends) or you
may need to take emergency steps to get help, such as
calling 911. When someone is in a suicidal crisis, it is
important to limit access to firearms or other lethal means
of committing suicide. ECO’s and TDO’s are other important
components to successfully handling a suicidal situation.
What are the
most common methods of suicide?
Firearms are the
most commonly used method of suicide for men and women,
accounting for 60% of all suicides. Nearly 80% of all
firearm suicides are committed by white males. The second
most common method for men is hanging; for women, the second
most common method is self-poisoning including drug
overdose. The presence of a firearms in the home has been
found to be an independent, additional risk factor for
suicide. Thus, when a family member or health care provider
is faced with an individual at risk for suicide, they should
make sure that firearms are removed from the home.
Who is at
highest risk for suicide in the US?
There is a
common perception that suicide rates are higher among the
young. However, it is the elderly, particularly older
white males that have the highest rates. And among
white males 65 and older, risk goes up with age. White men
85 and older have a suicide rate that is six times
that of the overall national rate. Some older persons
are less likely to survive attempts because they are less
likely to recuperate. Over 70% of older suicide
victims have been to their primary care physicians within
the month of their death, and many did not tell their
doctors they were depressed.
increase the risk for suicide?
majority of people who have depression do not die by
suicide, having major depression does increase suicide risk
compared to people without depression. The risk of death by
suicide may, in part, be related to the severity of the
Does alcohol and
other drug abuse increase the risk for suicide?
A number of
recent national surveys have helped shed light on the
relationship between alcohol and other drug use and suicidal
behavior. A review of minimum-age drinking laws and
suicides among youths age 18-20 found that lower minimum
–age drinking laws was associated with higher youth suicide
rates. In a large study following adults who reported that
they had made a suicide attempt during their lifetime were
more likely to have had a depressive disorder, and many also
had an alcohol intoxication, over 20% were suicides.
Is it possible
to predict suicide?
At the current
time there is no definitive measure to predict suicide or
suicidal behavior. Researchers have identified factors that
place individuals at higher risk for suicide, but very few
persons with these risk factors will actually commit
suicide. Risk factors include mental illness, substance
abuse, previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide,
history of being sexually abused, and impulsive or
aggressive tendencies. Suicide is a relatively rare event
and it is therefore difficult to predict which persons with
these risk factors will ultimately commit suicide.