In California, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10-24. It is the 11th leading cause of death overall in California. On average, a person dies by suicide every 2 hours in our State. (Data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
In my work as a therapeutic educational consultant, I meet with boys and girls who express a desire to commit suicide. Some of them have made attempts. Some just have the idea. Regardless of either, if a teenager says they feel suicidal, believe them until proven otherwise. But, what do you do if you suspect someone you know could be feeling suicidal? The answer is easier than you think.
Popular Misconceptions about Suicide
Asking will give them the idea
People who talk about it won’t attempt it
Suicide happens without warning
Only people who are depressed or mentally ill die by suicide
Improvement in the suicidal person means that the risk is over
Patient’s under a doctor’s care are not at suicidal risk
Signs and Symptoms
The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.
Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
Talking about great guilt or shame
Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
Talking about being a burden to others
Using alcohol or drugs more often
Acting anxious or agitated
Withdrawing from family and friends
Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
Talking or thinking about death often
Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
Giving away important possessions
Saying goodbye to friends and family
Putting affairs in order, making a will
If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has increased recently. One resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. Suicide Crisis Text Line 741-741.
Steps to Take if you think someone is Suicidal
If you are a teenager, please go tell an adult – if you are afraid to say something to your parents, try a school counselor, teacher, tutor, coach or call the Suicide Hotline to speak anonymously with an adult who will know how to help you.
If you are an adult who has interacted with a young person who you suspect may be suicidal, here are some basic steps to follow.