Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Do you need help right now? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.

Over 5,200 young people commit suicide each year. Suicide is the 2nd-leading cause of death among young people 10 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries.  There are many practical, effective interventions parents and others can undertake to decrease the risk of a child attempting or completing suicide. 

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues. Everyone in Washington has a role in suicide prevention, suicide is a preventable public health problem.

Defining Terms:

  • Suicide is defined as death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior.
  • suicide attempt is a non-fatal, self-directed, potentially injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior. A suicide attempt might not result in injury.
  • suicidal ideation refers to thinking about, considering, or planning suicide.

 

Recognize the signs. Know what to do.

Warning Signs:

Among both children and adolescents, the warning signs of suicide can include:

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Increased, persistent irritability
  • Frequent or pervasive sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
  • >5 hours per day of internet/game use, especially in the context of decreased time spent in other routines and activities
  • Frequent complaints about physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Decline in the quality of schoolwork
  • Preoccupation with death and dying

Among teenagers, the warning signs of suicide can also include:

  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
  • Unusual neglect of personal appearance
  • Marked personality change

Risk Factors:

Suicidal ideation, self-injurious behaviors, and suicide attempts are most often associated with depression. In addition to depression, other risk factors include:

  • Family history of suicide attempts
  • Parental mental health problems
  • Rupture or high conflict in the parent-child relationship
  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Abuse and neglect
  • Exposure to violence
  • Impulsivity
  • Aggressive or disruptive behavior
  • Access to firearms
  • Bullying
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • LGBTQ identity, especially in those youth who gender identity is not validated or supported
  • Acute loss or rejection
  • Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI)
  • Evidence of Borderline Personality Disorder traits and behaviors

What You Can Do:

If someone talks about or exhibits behaviors that make you suspect the person is suicidal, follow these steps:

  • Take it seriously.
  • Talk to the person. Listen and show compassion. “I know you’ve had a hard time lately, how are you holding up?”
  • Ask, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”.
  • If you feel the person is suicidal, do not leave them alone. Remove all possible lethal means from the area (including firearms and medications).
  • Refer the person to help (National suicide support: www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org; Seattle-King County: www.CrisisClinic.org)
  • Get help: If they don’t or can’t contact someone, do it for them.

Courtesy: AACAP

American Indians and Alaska Natives

  • In 2015, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives ages 10-34.
  • Native youth have the highest suicide rate of any group in the United States. Among young people age 15-24, the suicide rate in 2015 was 60 percent higher than the national rate.

American Indian & Alaska Native Resources & Research

In addition to the suicide risk factors that face most young Americans, American Indian/Alaska Native youth have layers of risk that increase their susceptibility to suicidal thoughts. According to the Indian Health Service, they may feel cut off from other people, or isolated on reservations, perceive or suffer discrimination, or be burdened by historical trauma shared by earlier generations related to experiences of colonialism, wars, dislocation from land, and separation from family by Indian boarding schools.

Relative to the tremendous toll suicide takes on American Indian and Alaskan Native communities, there is a substantial deficit in research. If you have data or resources you would like us to add, please let us know.

Veterans

  • An estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide every day.
  • Since 9/11, more than 3,300 active duty service members have died by suicide. Since 2012, more soldiers have died by suicide than in combat.
  • Every month, nearly 1,000 veterans attempt suicide.
  • Veterans are far more likely to die by suicide using a firearm than their civilian counterparts.
  • Veterans comprised 23 percent of all deaths by suicide in Washington between the years of 2010-2012, even though they represent only 8.5 percent of the general population.

Veteran Resources & Research

Veterans and active duty soldiers face unique circumstances. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, emotional and mental health crises are heightened for men and women who serve or have served in the military. Studies found this to be particularly true in the three years immediately following deployment. The VA says that these unique factors exacerbate crisis moments for veterans:

  • Frequent or prolonged deployments
  • Exposure to extreme stress
  • Physical/sexual assault while in the service (not limited to women)
  • Service-related injury

These resources will help you learn more about veterans and suicide. If you work for an organization that would like to have a resource added, please let us know.

LGBTQ+

  • 60.4 percent of LGB youth felt hopeless or sad every day for 2+ weeks, compared to 26.4 percent of heterosexual youth
  • 42.8 percent of LGB youth seriously considered suicide, compared to 14.8 percent of heterosexual youth.
  • 38.2 percent of LGB youth made a suicide plan, compared to 11.9 percent of heterosexual youth.
  • 29.4 percent of LGB youth attempted suicide, compared to 6.4 percent of heterosexual youth.
  • 9.4 percent of LGB youth made a suicide attempt that required the attention of a medical professional, compared to 2 percent of heterosexual youth.

In a national study, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92 percent of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.4

LGBTQ+ Resources & Research

A study published in 2016 found that nearly one-third (29 percent) of LGB youth have attempted suicide at least once in the prior year compared to 6 percent of heterosexual youth. Members of the LGBTQ community experience risk factors shown to increase suicide rates, including societal stigma, threats of violence, institutional discrimination, cyberbullying and conflict with family or friends as a result of their sexual identity. According to The Trevor Project, each episode of victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average.

 

2017 Suicide Stats, Courtesy: WA Department of Health//UW Forefront

Suicide rates have been increasing for two decades now. Moreover, youth suicide has risen in recent years, along with anxiety and depression. Suicide is the 2nd-leading cause of death among young people 10 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries. Comparing data of U.S. suicide rates among persons aged 10-24 between 2007-2009 and 2016-2018: There was a 47% increase in completed suicides (US).

2019 U.S. total suicides: 47,511

Of note: These numbers represent a decrease from the 2018 numbers and rate. Caution in interpreting these decreases is urged by leaders in the field.

Washington & U.S. five-year suicide totals & crude rates per 100,000

These statistics compare Washington state’s annual suicide totals and suicide crude rates per 100,000 with the matching national statistics for 2015 through 2019.

WA Suicides    Rates    U.S. Suicides  Rates

2019 – 1,263    16.6        47,511           14.5

2018 – 1,252    16.6        48,344          14.8

2017 – 1,297    17.5        47,173           14.5

2016 – 1,141    15.6        44,965           13.9

2015 – 1,137    15.8        44,193           13.8

Washington’s 2019 rate per 100,000 of 14.5 is 24th in the nation.

Courtesy: CDC, UW Forefront 

 

Mental Health Check-In

Make the commitment to check-in with your family, friends, colleagues, or loved ones.

Making it a point to check in on kids’ daily mental health gives them a window of opportunity to ask for help if or when they need it.

To start a conversation:

  1. Set aside time to talk. It is recommended to try for 15 minutes or longer. Get rid of distractions. This time is just about checking-in. Avoid phones, tablets, or television.
  2. Ask open-ended questions. Start a discussion by asking “What went well today?” and “What could have gone better?” Try to make these conversations part of your daily routine, either at dinnertime or just before kids go to bed.
  3. Listen and validate. Let them express their ideas fully before you respond. If your child expresses feelings of sadness or worry, resist the urge to “fix” the problem immediately. Instead, let them know that it’s okay – and even understandable – to feel this way right now.
  4. Come up with solutions together. Help them come up with ideas for how to make the next day better or identify someone who can help, like a therapist, doctor, or pastor. Help kids focus on what they can control, which can help them better handle stress and anxiety by helping them identify aspects of life they have influence over, while acknowledging there are a lot of thing they don’t have control of now.
  5. Schedule time for your next check-in. Be sure to create a routine for check-ins, whether it’s daily or weekly.
  6. And finally, provide reassurance that life will eventually get back to normal.

Many parents may have a heightened concern that the mental challenges their children are experiencing due to this crisis could increase their risk for attempted or completed suicide.

Mental wellness and an increase in suicides are at risk during the coronavirus epidemic.

Feeling isolated, worried, anxious, depressed or grieving is a normal and understandable human response to the dramatic changes caused by COVID-19. Many people are worried about the future, financial stress, health, and how to support each other (especially their kids) in this time of unprecedented uncertainty.

And suicides can increase during periods of societal disconnection and economic downturn.

The UW Forefront Suicide Prevention Center has created a complete COVID-19 Toolkit to be proactive about protecting mental health and reducing suicides. For the complete guide, click here.

  •  WA State Crisis line phone numbers. Request assistance for you or a friend or family member (24/7/365). A list of numbers can be found here.

For families with private insurance:

  • Contact your insurance company and ask for a list of in-network providers or access therapists/providers in your area, who accept your insurance

For families with Medicaid:

Suicide accounts for more deaths than homicide in the United States.

Suicides are preventable. Know the risk factors and warning signs so you can help.

While mental health problems are an important risk factor for suicide, they do not fully explain the differences in suicide between states and regions. Other factors, such as demographics and the prevalence of firearm ownership are important in explaining differences in suicide.

While suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults, the highest rate of suicide is in middle aged adults.

While females are more likely to attempt suicide; males, particularly white males, are more likely to die by suicide. 7 in 10 suicides in 2014 were white males.

A vast majority of individuals who attempt or commit suicide have risk factors or show warning signs ahead of time. Learning about those signs can help you save a life.

Studies have found that more than 75 percent of all completed suicides did things in the few weeks or months prior to their deaths to indicate to others that they were in deep despair. Anyone expressing suicidal feelings needs immediate attention.

It’s best to talk to the person as soon as you suspect something might be wrong. In a study of suicide survivors, 24 percent reported that less than five minutes elapsed from the time they decided to end their life and their suicide attempt.

While pill overdoses account for a large number of suicide and suicide attempts each year, most suicides are actually firearm-related.

An estimated 90 percent of suicide attempts using a firearm result in death, while those who attempt suicide by other means are far more likely to survive a suicide attempt. 2 percent of suicide attempts by pill overdose and 1 percent of suicide attempts by cutting survive their attempt. Means matter.

Keeping firearms locked and unloaded is associated with a lower risk of suicide among those living in the household, including children and adults.

In a nationwide study of adolescents who live in households with firearms, 41 percent reported that they could easily access the gun. Adolescents with mental health problems were just as likely to report easy access to a household firearm as adolescents without mental health or substance abuse problems.

Do you need help right now? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.

This web site is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. No physician-patient relationship is created by this web site or its use. Neither HIPRC, the University of Washington, nor its employees, nor any contributor to this web site, makes any representations, express or implied, with respect to the information provided herein or to its use.