How common is suicide?

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 3 times as many males commit suicide than females, according to the CDC. Among females, suicide rates are the highest for ages 45 to 64. Men over the age of 75 had the highest suicide rate. Suicide rates are higher among those living in urban areas compared to rural areas. Despite more awareness, suicide rates have increased over the years.

If someone I know has suicidal thoughts, what can they do to help?

If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts, reaching out for support is the most important step. Talk to a mental health professional, ask a close family or friend to help you, or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for resources. If you think you might hurt yourself, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Suicidal thoughts are overwhelmingly negative in nature. Try shifting your mind into more positive and helpful thinking habits. Cognitive Therapy is a technique of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a well-researched psychological intervention. When you have suicidal thoughts, such as “My life is worthless. I want this to all end”, see if you can think about the inherent value you do possess and the achievements you have accomplished. Ask yourself, “How helpful is this thought? Can I think about what good I’ve done in my life? Is there anything to look forward to? What would I tell my friend who has similar thoughts?” Cognitive therapy takes practice, but it can be an effective mental tool to change negative thinking patterns.

Engaging in pleasurable activities, such as a hobby, can improve your mood and instill positive thoughts. You may want to take a class or online course to learn something new. When our minds are engaged in learning, this can lead to an increase in neurochemicals responsible for happiness, joy, and motivation.

What activities should you avoid if you are feeling suicidal?

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, then you should consider avoiding drugs and alcohol. These mind-altering substances can lead to an exacerbation of negative emotions and an increase in impulsive behaviors. Additionally, to keep yourself safe, avoid risky activities, such as operating machinery or driving under the influence.

If someone I know is having suicidal thoughts, do they need to be hospitalized?

Not everyone who has suicidal thoughts require inpatient hospitalization. Suicidal risk is categorized into low, medium, and high. When you are considered low or even medium risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors, then you may be able to get support without hospitalization. Intensive outpatient therapy might be a better option for you. However, if you are considered at high risk for suicidal behaviors, then hospitalization will help keep you safe and ensure that you receive a high level of care.

What can I do if I often have thoughts of dying?

When you are struggling with chronic suicidal ideation, please consider seeing a mental health professional on a regular basis. Psychologists and other therapists are trained to help individuals develop effective coping skills, to provide consistent emotional support, and to refer you to other supporting professionals when needed. Additionally, certain psychotropic medications may relieve depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric symptoms. If you would like medication management, then seek out a psychiatrist or talk to your primary care physician.

What to do if I'm having suicidal thoughts