A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that pandemic anxiety and depression increased in the U.S. from April to June of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The report uncovered an increase in substance abuse, mental health issues, and suicidal thoughts for young adults, minorities, caregivers, and essential workers.

“The pandemic has caused all sorts of different problems,” said Larry Valentine, director of Mental Health Services at Orange Coast College. “Through all the difficulties that have been going on, there's sort of an increased sense of despair.”  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 million Americans have had ideas about taking their own life in 2019. In the U.S., suicide rates increased by 33% from 1999-2019 and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. 

Many factors contribute to suicide, but prevention is possible. This guide offers help and hope for those experiencing suicidal thoughts and those who want to help.

Facts about suicide

A report published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found:

  • In the United States, a person dies of suicide every 16 minutes, and at least one suicide attempt happens every minute.

  • More than 30,000 people in the US die from suicide each year.

  • Suicide is the fifth foremost cause of death in people ages 5-14 and the third main cause of death in people ages 15-24.

  • Male suicide rates increase with age, most significantly after age 65. This rate is seven times that of women 65 and older.

  • People with AIDS are up to 20 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Understanding suicide facts is essential when it comes to suicide prevention. 

Suicide risk factors

Several different reasons can lead someone to consider suicide and certain risk factors may increase the possibility of suicide. According to the American Psychiatric Association risk factors include: 

  • Family history of suicide.

  • A prior suicide attempt.

  • Substance abuse disorder.

  • Depression, and other mental disorders.

  • Family violence and history of abuse, including physical or sexual abuse.

Identifying these risk factors can be helpful when building a suicide prevention plan.

Suicide warning signs

It is essential to know the warning signs, especially for those who have risk factors. According to warning signs to be on the lookout for are:

  • A focus on death like speaking, writing, drawing, or posting online about death or suicide.

  • Listening to music about dying or browsing death-related websites 

  • Talking about having no reason to live or that without them others would be better off.

  • giving away personal items and clarifying open questions 

  • Social abandonment and separation.

“The majority of those suffering from suicidal thoughts likely will not seek help,” said Department of Education’s behavioral health specialist, Natasha Olaivar. “Check in by asking if they’ve had any thoughts of harming themselves.”

Suicide prevention strategies

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be difficult. When confronting someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, consider some of these prevention strategies:

  • Keep them safe by reducing their access to the things that can harm them.

  • Speak up when worried someone is thinking about suicide.

  • Be there for them and listen to what they need.

  • Participate in activities together such as hiking, exercising, etc.

  • Help connect them to ongoing support.

  • Stay connected and show concern by doing wellness checks

“We want to be empathetic to them, we don't want to deny their feelings, we don't want to tell them that what they're feeling is wrong, and just snap out of it,” Valentine said .

Suicide prevention resources

The internet has many resources to help prevent suicide. Some of those resources include: 

Phone: 800-273-8255

Phone: 800-273-8255 *press 1

Phone: 866-488-7386

Text HOME to 741741

“Encourage them to reach out to the National Suicide Hotline,” Olaivar said.  “They can also contact the hotline themselves for guidance.”

Suicide does not discriminate and can happen to anyone at any moment, do not hesitate to seek help. For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Line.

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