Each year, about 36,000 people in the United States die by suicide. Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. They may not seek help because they feel they cannot be helped. This usually is not the case. Many people with suicidal thoughts have medical conditions that can be successfully treated. People who have suicidal thoughts often have depression or substance abuse, and both of these conditions can be treated. It is important to seek help when suicidal thoughts occur because medical treatment usually is successful in diminishing these thoughts.
Most people who seriously consider or attempt suicide have one or more of the following risks:
- A personal or family history of suicide attempts or completed suicide;
- A personal or family history of severe anxiety, depression, or other mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) or schizophrenia;
- An alcohol or drug problem (substance abuse problem), such as alcoholism;
The warning signs of suicide change with age:
- Children and teens – preoccupation with death or suicide or a recent breakup of a relationship.
- Adults -alcohol or substance abuse, recent job loss, or divorce.
- Older adults – the recent death of a partner or diagnosis of a life-limiting illness.
Anytime someone talks about suicide or about wanting to die or disappear, even in a joking manner, the conversation must be taken seriously.
A suicide attempt—even if the attempt did not harm the person—also must be taken seriously. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone you think may be considering suicide. There is no proof that talking about suicide leads to suicidal thinking or suicide. Once you know the person’s thoughts on the subject, you may be able to help prevent a suicide.
People who are considering suicide often are undecided about choosing life or death. With compassionate help, they may choose to live.