suicide

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Telamonian Aias is preparing to commit suicide...

Telamonian Aias is preparing to commit suicide. Reproducing illustration of an antique Greek black-figure amphora (colour litho), depiction by Exekias (530-525 BC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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"You know you've had enough of winter whe...

“You know you’ve had enough of winter when…” you make a snowman committing suicide. I get bored easily. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Detail of The Death of Socrates. A disciple is...

Detail of The Death of Socrates. A disciple is handing Socrates a goblet of hemlock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is suicide?

Suicide is the act of intentionally taking one’s own life.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the US. Women purposely injure themselves more often than men. However, men are more likely to kill themselves than are women. Suicide rates are higher as people age.

Those at higher risk for committing suicide:

  • have attempted suicide before
  • live alone
  • are not married
  • have chronic pain or a terminal illness
  • abuse drugs or alcohol
  • have a family history of suicide
  • are depressed
  • have little or no social support
  • have recently lost a loved one
  • are a veteran
  • are gay or bisexual
  • have a mental illness
  • are unemployed
  • are over the age of 65

What are the signs of suicidal feelings?

Someone may be thinking seriously of suicide if he or she:

  • talks or jokes about suicide or writes a suicide note
  • writes a will
  • acts depressed (sad, crying)
  • abuses drugs or alcohol
  • gives away prized possessions or throws away important belongings
  • thinks about death all the time
  • neglects or changes his or her appearance for the worse
  • changes eating and sleeping habits
  • withdraws from friends, family, and regular activities
  • lets the quality of his or her work go down
  • becomes very moody, irritable, violent, rebellious, or withdrawn
  • knows how and where he or she would commit suicide

What are the methods used?

The most common method used to commit suicide is poisoning, usually from an overdose of sleeping pills, sometimes taken with alcohol. Inhaling car exhaust fumes is another method often used. Men are more likely than women to use a violent method such as shooting themselves.

The most common way that older adults commit suicide is with a gun. Hanging and poisoning are also common methods older adults use to kill themselves. In nursing homes, passive suicide by refusing food or fluids is fairly common. It often is not recognized as a suicidal act.

How can I help prevent a suicide?

Often a person gives clues that he or she is going to commit suicide. Most people do NOT hurt themselves or fake suicide just to get attention. Talking about suicide is a cry for help. If someone ever tells you he or she is planning to commit suicide, take it seriously.

Suicide is preventable in many cases. Asking if someone is thinking of suicide is not putting ideas in his or her head. It can be a relief for someone thinking of suicide to talk about it.

If you think someone is suicidal, get help immediately. Remove or lock up lethal weapons, such as guns, pills, and ropes. Do not leave the person alone. Talk with a healthcare provider or a mental health specialist. Your local mental health association or county medical society can provide references. In an emergency, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE.

Hospitalization and treatment for mental illness may be necessary until the risk of committing suicide has passed. Many of those who attempt suicide try it again within the next year.

What are the effects of suicide on others?

Losing a loved one to suicide is a very different type of loss and creates emotions and feelings different from other losses. You may not want to love again because you do not want to be hurt again.

When someone close to you commits suicide, you may:

  • feel angry or blame other family members.
  • feel numb and out of touch with reality.
  • feel frustrated because you need to know what happened, and you may never know.
  • feel guilty and constantly think “if only I could have done something”.
  • start thinking about committing suicide yourself.

There are many resources available to those who have suffered a loss through suicide. Talking with a mental health specialist about your feelings can help. A support group or organization that helps survivors of suicide can offer a safe place to talk about your loss.

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