If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat live at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. If you’re in Kansas or Missouri, you can also call KVC Hospitals at 913-890-7468 to find children’s psychiatric treatment near you.
September is National Suicide Awareness Month. This month and all year long, KVC works to raise awareness, reduce stigma and educate people on how to help prevent suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, more than 47,511 people died by suicide in 2019. That’s 1 person every 11 minutes. Suicide has become a major public health issue and families across the United States are in crisis as suicide has become the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34. To help protect yourself and those close to you from this tragic public health issue, it’s important to understand the warning signs, risk factors and what you can do to prevent suicide.
Provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
There is a common belief that someone who thinks about or attempts suicide has a mental health disorder. However, in 2016, more than half (54%) of people who died by suicide did not have a diagnosed mental health condition. Also, there is rarely one single factor that causes someone to consider suicide. Some of the issues that can contribute to suicide include substance use, trauma, untreated mental illness, physical health, financial stress, legal issues, housing, relationships and more.
Know the Risk Factors
The factors below may indicate an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or attempts in youth.
- A prior suicide attempt
- A family history of suicide
- Exposure to traumatic experiences like witnessing violence or experiencing abuse or neglect
- A family history of mental illness, depression, alcohol and/or drug misuse
- Chronic pain and certain medical conditions
Know the Warning Signs
- Killing themselves
- Wanting to die
- Feeling hopeless
- Unexplainable and/or unbearable pain
- Feeling like there’s no point to life
- Drastic changes in behavior, such as struggling with depression but suddenly displaying a surge of happiness or eagerness
- Increased alcohol and/or drug use
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
- Withdrawn from family, friends and/or activities
- Displaying changes in their mood, such as increased anxiousness, anger or other extreme mood changes
What You Can Do to Prevent Suicide
Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide and there are many preventative steps you can take to help a child or teen before they are in crisis. Increasing the connections among family members and others in your circle can play a major role in preventing suicide, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Research also shows that people having thoughts of suicide can experience relief when someone simply reaches out to them and inquires about their feelings.
Here are some examples:
- Tell them that they matter. Positive reinforcement is important.
- Help them engage positive supports in their life (such as school, church, sports or volunteering)
- Create opportunities for them to talk about their emotions. Actively listen without judgement.
- Teach them healthy habits for caring for their body and brain.
- Work with them on stress tolerance and coping skills.
- Encourage counseling; you don’t have to be in crisis to seek help.
How to Help a Child Who Is Struggling
If you know a child or teen struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression or other mental health needs, seek professional help immediately. There isn’t a “one size fits all” with treatment and children’s needs. Here are some steps you can take to find a youth the help that best fits their unique needs:
- Speak with their primary care physician or local community mental health center
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
- Visit the Anxiety & Depression Association of America website at adaa.org
- Visit a local hospital or emergency department and ask for a consultation
- Contact KVC Hospitals at (913) 890-7468 to learn about our youth psychiatric treatment programs serving Kansas and Missouri. Click here to see our locations.
- Call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 800-950-6264 or visit their website at nami.org
- Learn more about youth suicidal ideation from the Child Mind Institute
Being aware of the warning signs and risk factors above will help you identify when friends, family or someone you know starts to exhibit these behaviors. In many communities, suicide carries a negative stigma that prevents some people from seeking help. Keep an open mind when talking to others about their feelings and be sure not to promote this stigma. Be encouraging when urging someone to seek help, whether through a mental health professional, a visit to the emergency room or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).