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The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) reports that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among those 18 to 65 years old, and the third leading cause among adolescents and young adults. Because 90 percent of suicide victims suffer from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, early recognition and treatment save lives. Risk factors include:

  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Previous suicide attempts and/or a family history of suicide or mental illness
  • Demographics (Elderly white men have the highest suicide rate, and individuals with an artistic bent suffer disproportionately from mood disorders.)

Warning signs include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety, psychic pain, and inner tension
  • Withdrawal
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased alcohol and/or drug use
  • Risk-taking
  • Talk of suicide or wanting to die
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Sudden purchase of a firearm, poisons, or medications
  • Increased irritability or anger

If you suspect someone is at risk for suicide, afsp suggests you:

  • Ask if the person is contemplating suicide and has a plan.
  • Avoid using guilt or argument. Instead, express your concern with empathy, assuring the person that suicidal feelings are temporary, problems are solvable, and depression is treatable.
  • Encourage the person to seek professional help. Because suicidal individuals often don't believe they can be helped, they may need tangible support.
  • In a crisis situation, take the person to a hospital emergency room.
  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Remove potentially lethal objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • If necessary, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-talk.


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April 2009

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