how to help and what tools exist
(CNN) — More than 700,000 people die by suicide each year, according to the World Health Organization.
In other words: every 40 seconds, someone in the world takes their own life. That’s a sobering statistic to ponder today, on World Suicide Prevention Day 2021.
Awareness of the realities of suicide can help people view these deaths with more understanding and compassion, realize the importance of helping others get help, and address their own mental health issues if they are struggling, says the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses.
Suicide rates have been rising for years in some parts of the world. In the United States alone, suicide rates increased by 35% between 1999 and 2018. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call suicide a “growing public health problem.”
A major public health group estimated in 2020 that as many as 75,000 Americans could die due to drug or alcohol misuse and suicide related to the pandemic.
President Joe Biden expressed his concern in a 2021 proclamation announcing that September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day in the United States.
“In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 34,” Biden wrote.
“And that was before the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated, for many, feelings of isolation, burnout, and economic and public health-related anxiety. Rising rates of depression have prompted concern that we’ll see a further rise in suicide rates.
A study published in June 2021 further highlights those fears. The CDC found that emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase in May 2020 among adolescents ages 12 to 17, especially girls.
“The weekly mean number of these visits was 26.2% higher during the summer of 2020 and 50.6% higher during the winter of 2021 compared to the corresponding periods in 2019,” the CDC researchers wrote. .
All ages, races and income levels are at risk, with 77% of all suicides occurring in low- and middle-income countries, according to the WHO. Globally, young people may bear the brunt: Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds globally, the body said.
And that’s just part of the gloomy picture. For every person who has died by suicide, many more people think about or attempt suicide, according to CDC. In 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.4 million attempted suicide.
To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in mental health crises, now only three digits are needed: 988. The dial code to reach the lifeline was 1-800-273-TALK, a number that will remain operational during current expansion to 988. Text messages can also be sent to the three-digit number.
There are ways each of us can help prevent suicide. Here’s how to do your part.
Recognize signs of distress
There are many risk factors that can lead to increased thoughts of suicide. It’s important to recognize this in yourself or a loved one, experts say, because many people don’t talk about their suicidal thoughts ahead of time.
Is there a background? People who have a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, alcohol or other substance use disorder, significant physical illness, or a history of trauma, abuse, or suicide in their family are at higher risk, according to CDC.
Was there a loss? A death in the family, the loss of a job or the loss of a relationship is a risk factor for suicidal behavior, especially if they feel isolated or alone without social support, says the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Economic distress is a reality facing millions of people who are out of work right now due to COVID-19-related job loss, social isolation, or quarantine.
Is there a belief system that honors personal sacrifice? People with religious or cultural attitudes that see suicide as a noble resolution of a personal dilemma are at greater risk, according to Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Can they get a gun? Research have shown that easy access to firearms is also a key risk factor.
Did the person survive a suicide attempt? Any previous suicide attempt is the most important risk factor, according to the WHO. But there is also a rare “copycat” phenomenon in which suicides increase after a series of local suicides or the deaths of famous celebrities are reported in the media. For example, deaths by suicide increased in 10% in the US after comedian Robin Williams ended his life in 2014.
Search in the actions
Again, not everyone will give their friends and loved ones verbal clues about their suicidal thoughts. That’s why it’s important to consider both actions and words to recognize warning signs.
According to National Institute of Mental HealthBe careful if your loved one:
- You increase your use of alcohol or drugs or start to behave recklessly, such as driving while intoxicated or driving without a seat belt.
- Has extreme mood swings, from euphoria to deep depression or seems agitated, expresses rage, or talks about seeking revenge.
- You sleep too much or too little or withdraw or isolate yourself from others.
- Seems to be in excruciating psychological pain, or talks about being hopeless or a burden to friends or family, or talks about feeling trapped or having no reason to live.
- Start looking online for ways to kill yourself, like buying a gun or getting prescriptions.
- You start giving away prized possessions or making visits or calls to say goodbye.
Make sure to regularly check on your loved ones.
During the pandemic, families and friends are more isolated and alone, and many warning signs can be difficult to recognize.
Listen carefully when you talk to them about your concerns and see how they express themselves.
If you have suicidal thoughts
See here the lines of attention and prevention of suicide in Latin America, the United States and Spain.
If you live in the US and have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. To increase access to the lifeline, each state has implemented 988 as their new phone number. The old number, 800-273-8255 (TALK), remains available for people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
TrevorLifelinea suicide prevention counseling service for the LGBTQ community, can be reached at 866-488-7386.
Befrienders Worldwide connects users with the closest emotional support center for the part of the world in which they live.
Crisis Text Line, which Biden mentioned, is an international service that provides a live trained crisis adviser via a simple text message to ask for help. The first responses will be automated until they have a counselor on the line, which usually takes less than five minutes.
If you’re in the US or Canada, text 741741. If you’re in the UK, text 85258 and those in Ireland can text 50808. The Nationwide Service Salud also lists a variety of resources on its website.
CNN’s Mallory Simon and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 9, 2021, to commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day.