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Understanding Suicide

Updated: Sep 17



As we sink into the colder seasons, and find more comfort at home than outside with others, it is important we still keep an extra eye out for our loved ones (or even ourselves), and learn how to create a safe and supportive environment.


It is difficult to completely understand suicide. Suicide has many layers and is different for everyone. It is a tragedy that can affect anyone but is preventable with the right support system. So how can we identify who needs help?


What is Suicide?

Suicide is a sensitive issue that is tough to approach. It is the act of purposely or voluntarily taking one's own life. It is a significant issue that must be continued to be discussed and learned about.


In the United States alone, suicide is a leading cause of death and is now a public health problem. It is estimated that nearly 46,000 people took their own life in 2020. That is nearly 1 death every 11 minutes. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 700,000 people die of suicide every year.


While suicide can affect anyone – no matter gender, age, race, religion, etc. — there are certain factors that create a higher risk. These include a job or financial problems, relationship

problems, substance misuse, physical or mental health problems, and those who have experienced violence (physical abuse, bullying, or sexual violence). There are also certain groups that may disproportionately experience these factors including veterans, people who live in rural areas, sexual and gender minorities, middle-aged adults, and tribal populations.


What are the Signs?

It is important to look out for those who are more susceptible to suicide. Staying aware of your personal community's events can help identify if anyone is experiencing a moment of crisis that may put them at a higher risk. However one might not always be battling these issues to feel suicidal, but there are other signs to look for.


Warning signs of suicide (according to the National Institute of Mental Health):

  1. Changes in behaviors

  • Withdrawing from friends and families

  • Saying goodby or giving away important items

  • Taking dangerous risks

  • Displaying extreme mood swings

  • Eating more or less

  • Sleeping more or less

  • Using substances more often

  • Making plans or researching how to die

  • Causing self-harm

  1. Feeling

  • Empty, hopeless

  • Having no reason to live

  • Trapped

  • Extremely sad

  • Anxious

  • Agitated, rageful

  • Unbearable emotional or physical pain

  1. Talking about

  • Wanting to die

  • Great guilt or shame

  • Burdening others


How to Help?

Most suicides are impulsive, they occur during moments of crisis when one does not have the ability to overcome their stresses. If you are aware of anyone experiencing a situation causing distress, here’s how you can help:


  • Let them know that you care and they aren’t alone.

  • Empathize with them (know that you don’t know exactly how they feel).

  • Be nonjudgmental when speaking to them.

  • Repeat their words back to them when responding to show that you are listening.

  • Ask if they have felt suicidal before and if feelings have changed overtime.

  • Make sure someone is with them if they feel they are in danger.

  • Encourage them to seek professional help in a way that they feel comfortable.


Crisis Services

24/7 Hotline: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call or text: 988


24/7 Crisis Text Hotline

Text TALK to 741-741


Veteran Crisis Line

Text 838255


SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline (Substance Abuse)

Call 1-800-662-HELP


RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotine

Call 1-800-656-HOPE


National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline

1-866-331-9474


The Trevor Project

1-866-488-7386


Check In With Yourself

Suicide effects everyone. Even if you are not suicidal but someone close to you is, you can still be greatly affected. So when checking in with your loved ones, don’t forget to check in with yourself and make sure you are ok.


Ask yourself:

  • How are you feeling?

  • Do you have something to look forward to?

  • What are you doing for yourself?


If your response to any of the questions is negative, maybe take a step back and begin to focus on yourself before helping others. You are the most important thing in your life and do what is best for yourself.


Further Readings



Works Cited

“Disparities in Suicide.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 Aug. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/disparities-in-suicide.html.

“Facts about Suicide.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 July 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/index.html.

“Suicidal Thoughts - How to Support Someone.” Suicidal Thoughts - How to Support Someone, https://www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/carers-hub/suicidal-thoughts-how-to-support-someone/.

“Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 July 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/suicide/symptoms-causes/syc-20378048.

“Suicide Statistics.” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 14 June 2022, https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/.

“Suicide.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide.

“Warning Signs of Suicide.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/warning-signs-of-suicide.


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