September 6 through 12 is Suicide Prevention Week. While we’d like to think that we’d never encounter or experience a suicide in our lives, most people will know someone, somewhere who has either attempted or committed suicide at some point in their lives.
Almost 30,000 Americans die of suicide every year, making it more deadly than HIV/AIDS. It’s the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, and it is estimated that for every person who commits suicide, another 8 to 25 have attempted it. In fact, at least 1 in every 7 teens has thought about doing it.
But it’s not hopeless. Did you know that 80% of people with depression who seek help are treated successfully? That number would surely increase if such people were encouraged to seek help—as well as supported by friends and family.
Most people contemplating suicide really don’t want to do it; they simply see no other way out of their situation. Most suicidal people also give warnings prior to making an attempt, so taking these warnings seriously—no matter how trivial we think they may seem, or how much we think the person is just “seeking attention”—is important in preventing suicide.
Be sure to look for the warning signs, such as rage, hopelessness, reckless behavior, believing that there’s “no way out,” dramatic mood changes and severe depression.
Another important thing to do is to simply listen. Many depressed people could use an ear to bend or a shoulder to cry on. Be there for your friend or family member; let him or her know you care. Don’t judge; just listen and care. Show him or her all of the wonderful things he or she does in life that would be missed—and help him or her figure out solutions to problems if you can. If you can’t, find someone who can.
Speaking of help, any depressed individual should approach a health professional if he or she has had symptoms for days on end or has thoughts of hurting himself or another person. Not only can a doctor help your friend or loved one—or you, if you need it—combat this disease—and depression is a definite disease, one that is on the rise and may be the leading disease in the country someday soon—he or she may also be able to help you get some perspective and help solve problems that seem insurmountable. For a mental health services referral, please call 1-800-273-8255.