How Can You Recognize Suicide Warning Signs and Risk Factors?

The concept of suicide is terrifying for loved ones who have attempted, or who appear to be at risk. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 the suicide rate among teen girls was an all-time high, and there was a general increase in teen suicide between the years of 1975 and 2015.

It’s not just teens, however, that are falling victim to suicide. It’s all age groups, and it’s incredibly important to be aware of red flags and warning signs that could point to suicide in a loved one.

There are options for treatment, ranging from medicine and talk therapy, to the use of options like ECT therapy in people who don’t respond well to medications and have severe depression, but before you can help someone you love, you need to know what to look for. It can also be helpful if you yourself deal with depression to know when you’re getting to a point when things could become dangerous.

The following are some of the warning signs and risk factors of suicide.

Risk Factors

There is often a combination of both environmental and genetic risk factors that play a role in suicide, and suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death among Americans.

Some of the risk factors for suicide include having a family history of suicide, previous attempts or trauma in one’s past, including being mistreated or abused as a child. Sometimes, a look into the family history using physical records available online such as newspaper archives or obituaries (see this for an example) might become necessary to uncover evidence of suicide or other trauma-related deaths. However, the mention of such details as cause of death may not always be present in obituaries, which could necessitate deeper research if the history of family members is unknown.

Women are more likely to attempt suicide than men, but men are more likely to complete suicide, and men are four times more likely than women to die from suicide. In the past regarding age-related suicide risk factors, it was more focused on young people and the elderly, but in recent years there has been an increase in suicides among middle aged people.

Mental illness is also a significant risk factor, and more than 90 percent of people who have died from suicide were diagnosed with a mental illness, with the most common being depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and eating disorders.

Another risk factor for suicide is chronic health problems.

Researchers are also seeing that there are some increases in cluster patterns when it comes to suicide, particularly among younger people. For example, suicide rates may spike in one geographic area.

Behavioral Warning Signs

Along with the risk factors for suicide, what about warning signs? Some of the initial warning signs often include behaviors that seem to indicate restlessness, agitation, and anxiety, as well as strange sleep patterns such as sleeping too much or too little.

An increase in the use of drugs or alcohol may be a warning sign, as may rage, withdrawing from friends and family, or engaging in reckless behaviors.

How to Help

There are things called protective factors which can help mitigate risk factors. Helping someone get connected to treatment and mental health resources is important, as is building a strong support system for that person so they can feel connected to something.

If you can also work to facilitate clinical interventions when you spot red flags, it can be helpful.

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