Suicide is both a major public health problem and a leading cause of death in the United States. The effects of suicide go beyond the person who takes their own life; the trauma of losing someone to suicide has a lasting impact on family, friends, and communities.1 Warning signs include concerning speech (e.g. talking about killing themselves), changes in behavior (e.g. isolating themselves from friends and family), and differences in mood (e.g. depression or anxiety).2 There are several associated risk factors correlated with suicidal behavior like health (e.g. having a serious mental illness), environment (e.g. having access to lethal means), and history (e.g. previous attempts).2 Thankfully, public awareness and prevention efforts in the United States are ramping up. By using a public health approach that addresses risk and protective factors for multiple types of violence, suicide, and other forms of violence, deaths by suicide can be prevented.1
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Join us as we continue our efforts towards improving the future of mental health care through information, discussion, and collaboration.
Sign up today for instant access to all PsychU offerings. Membership is free!
In this series of interviews, Sloan Manning, MD, discusses a variety of screening tools that may be used in primary care (or mental health) settings to screen for mental health symptoms and associated risks, and measure response and change in symptoms over time.Watch Now
Protective factors for suicide include effective behavioral and physical health care; access to clinical intervention; family and community supports; problem solving and conflict resolution skills; and cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide.
Some recommended strategies for suicide prevention include strengthening economic supports, creating protective environments, strengthening access and delivery of suicide care, promoting connectedness, and teaching coping and problem-solving skills.
Means safety involves making specific methods for suicide less deadly or less available for a suicide attempt and has been shown to reduce suicide rates with respect to firearms. Time and space between a person with thoughts of suicide and a firearm can potentially save lives.
Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal individuals want to live, they are just unable to see alternative to their problems. Being aware of those around you, maintaining connections to family, friends, and acquaintances who are going through difficult life events, and being willing to listen are crucial ways that individuals can help individuals in distress.
Understanding the risk factors for suicide may help screen for individuals in crisis. While they don’t cause or predict suicide, risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They include mental health and substance use disorders; history or trauma or abuse; previous attempt; loss of economic stability or interpersonal relationships; ease of access to lethal means; and lack of access to effective and appropriate health care.