Attending to Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

For many, suicide is a very real and frightening possibility. In the U.S. alone, more than 40,000 people die by suicide every single year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In fact, it's the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States. However, suicide is also preventable. By focusing on overall mental wellness and being aware of the common risk factors, you can help prevent suicide.

Suicide warning signs

Some people are more prone to thoughts of suicide because of past traumas and current issues in their lives. People who have a history of abuse, a past family history of suicide, aggressive or impulsive tendencies, and a history of drug or alcohol abuse are more likely to think of suicide than others, notes the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Disturbing life events can also lead to thoughts of suicide. The demise of a relationship or the loss of a job can lead to these negative thoughts. Having a lack of family and friend support, and a lack of healthcare and mental health access, can also cause suicidal thoughts.

Common suicide warning signs include feelings of hopelessness, talking about wanting to die, feelings of being trapped or stuck in life, and increased alcohol and/or drug use. If you notice these signs in yourself or in another, it’s time to seek out help and treatment.

Treating suicide

Suicide is something that doesn't need to happen.The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention points out that 90 percent of people commit suicide have a mental disorder at the time. By treating emotional wellness and the addictions that can lead to suicide, it is possible to prevent suicidal thoughts. Seeking out treatment for depression can be very effective. Medication and therapy are extremely helpful in overcoming depression.

Abusing drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol lower inhibitions. This makes it easier for people to act out their negative thoughts and turn them into negative behaviors, such as self-harm and suicide. In 2009, one-third of all people who committed suicide had alcohol in their system at the time of their deaths. Almost one-fifth of suicide victims test positive for drugs in the opiate family, which includes heroin and many common prescription painkillers.

Getting treated for substance abuse issues can be a very effective way to prevent suicide. There are many inpatient treatment options available for people who want to get help and kick a potentially fatal habit.

The path to emotional wellness

Staying emotionally healthy and being mindful of emotional wellness is one of the best possible ways to prevent suicide in yourself or a loved one. Staying emotionally well is a safeguard against negative thoughts and emotions that can lead to suicide. Maintain emotional health by creating a happy work life (such as changing up your routine or working at a healthier pace), reducing stress, getting high-quality sleep, strengthening social connections, and learning how to cope with loss in a healthy way.

Simply by staying self-aware, it's easier to achieve emotional wellness. Check in with yourself regularly and notice your feelings and how they may be affecting you. Ask yourself frequent questions to gauge your emotional wellness level. Are you able to function effectively in your daily work and responsibilities? Do you know how to reduce stress? Can you make decisions without letting worry and anxiety eat away at you? Can you set priorities?

If you find it difficult or even impossible to do these things, seek help from a trained counselor or find a strong support system to put you on a path to emotional wellness.

Pay attention to the risk factors and warning signs of suicide. Stay aware of emotional wellness — at home and at work — and recognize potential issues that are keeping you or a loved one from staying emotionally healthy. Suicide is completely preventable, and the issues that lead to suicide are totally treatable. When you see signs of suicide, take immediate action.

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