Suicidal thoughts are complicated. Maybe you’re feeling suicidal because you just experienced a major loss – the loss of a loved one, major life changes, or loss of independence – and you feel like suicide is the only way to end the pain you’re in. Maybe you feel like your life has no purpose, that you’re alone in this world. You’ve lost all hope for the future and can’t see a solution for the problems you’re up against. You’re lonely, isolated, and feel like you have no one to turn to. You may feel alone, but you’re not – many people have felt that suicide was the only way out. It’s not.
We understand that suicidal thoughts and behaviors don’t make you weak or flawed; you’re a normal person coping with overwhelming emotional pain. When you come to us, we’ll work alongside you, using your unique strengths and assets to help you form a strong foundation that you can build upon for years to come.
Suicidal thoughts, or suicidal ideation, are complex behaviors. Suicidal ideation may be the result of loss, anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, and problems in other areas of a person’s life that feel so overwhelming that dying by suicide seems like the only way to cope. Suicide remains one of the top ten causes for death in the United States. It’s been estimated that 11 people attempt suicide for every completed suicide, which makes suicide a major, preventable public health crisis.
In the moment, people who are feeling like harming themselves see no other option to end their deep emotional pain. This emotional pain can distort thinking so much so that it’s hard to consider that there may be other alternatives to coping with problems. It’s important that anyone who feels suicidal reach out for help – there are a number of organizations and people who want to support those individuals feeling as though dying by suicide is the only solution.
It’s vital to remember that most suicide attempts are a means of expressing deep distress, not a harmless plea for attention. Any person who appears to be suicidal should not be left alone for a moment – this is a medical emergency. Call 911 and remove all methods of suicide, including access to firearms and medications immediately.
Suicidal ideation statistics
Suicide is a major and needless cause of death for many people living in the United States. In 2007, suicide was named the tenth leading cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 35,000 lives lost. Suicide was the seventh leading cause for death in males, fifteenth for females, and a shocking third leading cause for death among people ages 15 to 24.
Causes and risk factors for suicidal ideations
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are quite complex and the causes for death by suicide are not thought to be the result of a single factor, rather the interplay of genetic, physical, and environmental risk factors. The most commonly cited causes for suicidal ideation and death by suicide include:
Genetic: People who are born into families in which a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, attempted or completed suicide are at a higher risk for suicidal ideation. Additionally, those who have a family history of mental illness or substance abuse are at higher risk for suicidal behaviors.
Physical: Research indicates that the risk for suicide is associated with changes in the neurotransmitters in the brain, notably decreased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Environmental: Growing up or living in a home in which violence was present increases the risk for suicidal ideation. Additionally, exposure to suicidal behavior of friends, peers, and family can increase the risks for suicidal behaviors.
- Firearms in the home
- Past history of suicide attempts
- Impulse control disorders
- Childhood physical or sexual abuse
- Being male
- Being between the ages of 15-24
- Teen pregnancy
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Conflicts between family members and loved ones
Signs and symptoms of suicidal ideations
One of the best ways to prevent death by suicide in children, teens, and adults is to understand the warning signs of suicide. Most people who do attempt suicide signal their intentions and intervention can stop the suicidal behaviors. All talk of suicide should always be taken very seriously – no matter the age.
Symptoms of suicidal ideation may include the following:
- Increased substance abuse
- Increasing amount of time spent alone
- Violent, rebellious, reckless behaviors
- Talking about having no reason to live
- Running away from home
- Saying goodbye to loved ones
- Talking about suicide
- Saying things like, “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead”
- Decline in work or academic performance
- Withdrawing from once-pleasurable activities
- Sudden, extreme personality changes
- Seeking out lethal means to end their life
- Getting affairs in order – making a will, giving away treasured possessions
- Forming a plan for the suicide attempt
- Previous suicide attempts
- Changes in eating patterns
- Weight loss or gain
- Vague somatic physical symptoms
- Neglecting personal appearance
- Worsening of physical health
- Psychomotor agitation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems with short-term memory
- Preoccupation with death, dying, or violence
- Depression followed by a period of intense happiness and relief
- No hope for the future
- The belief that nothing will get better
- Panic attacks
- Extreme remorse
- Sudden sense of calm
- Worsening of emotional health
Effects of suicidal ideations
Suicide attempts and behaviors can leave those closest to the person struggling to find answers. If you’re feeling hopeless about the future and believe suicide is the only way to end your pain, call 911 immediately.
Effects of suicide may include:
- Damage to vital organs
- Brain death
Effects of suicide on survivors
Those who are left to grieve the suicide of a loved one are called “suicide survivors.” Currently there are nearly 35,000 suicides annually in the United States – it’s estimated that for every suicide there are at least 6 suicide survivors. Approximately 5 million Americans have become suicide survivors over the past 30 years. Experiencing the loss of a loved one to suicide can be shocking, painful, unexpected, and can severely impact the entire grieving process.
Common effects suicide survivors experience include:
- Feeling responsible for not preventing the suicide
- Feeling rejected or abandoned by their loved ones
- Relief (if loved one was suffering)
- Profound sadness
- Emotional shock
- Grief (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Types of suicidal ideation treatment
When you come to us for help, you’ll be immediately evaluated for safety and undergo a number of evaluations that will help steer your course of treatment. The psychiatric evaluation can help us diagnose any mental health disorders you’re facing and begin treatment for these disorders. We’ll use the results of your evaluations to create an individualized treatment plan that will meet all of your needs.
Individual therapy helps you deal with your suicidal thoughts. Our therapists will provide one-on-one therapeutic guidance to help you confront your challenges and teach you more adaptive coping skills. You will learn to identify your negative thoughts and replace them with more adaptive ways of coping.
Group therapy can be very helpful for people who are struggling with thoughts of suicide. Suicidal thoughts can be intensely isolating, and group therapy will help you connect with others who understand the challenges you face. Together you’ll work to discover new coping skills, develop appropriate ways to deal with stress, and learn about co-occurring disorders.
Family therapy can be an important to your recovery as the support of your loved ones can make a tremendous difference in your continued healing. Through family sessions, we’ll educate your loved ones about suicide and your recovery, provide emotional support to you and your loved ones, and allow for a frank discussion of any family dynamics that may have led to your suicidal thoughts or behaviors. We’ll also provide your loved ones with referrals to outpatient therapy and community resources as needed.
In addition to providing you with traditional therapeutic modalities, we’ll also help to heal the whole person by utilizing experiential therapies.
Helping a loved one get treatment for suicidal ideations
If your loved one is struggling with thoughts of suicide, this is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. The following are signs you should look for if you suspect your loved one is contemplating ending his or her life:
- Talking about dying by suicide
- Seeking out lethal means
- Preoccupation with death or dying
- Getting affairs in order and saying goodbye to loved ones
- Sudden sense of calm and happiness after extreme depression and/or hopelessness
- Forming a plan to die by suicide
If your loved one or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about suicide, assess the immediacy of this emergency by asking the following questions:
- PLAN: “Do you have a suicide plan?”
- MEANS: “Do you have all that you need to act upon this plan?”
- TIME: “Do you know when you’d act on your plan?”
- INTENT: “Do you intend to die by suicide?”
If your loved one can answer all of these questions easily, the risk is extremely high for suicide. This is an emergency:
- Contact your nearest emergency room and police
- Remove any lethal means such as guns, drugs, knives, medications, and other lethal objects from your loved one’s immediate vicinity
- Do not let the suicidal person out of your sight for even a moment
- While you wait for the police or ambulance, talk calmly to your loved one. Tell him or her how much you care, how you’ll get through this together, and how things will get better – the future is a bright place