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    Suicide Part 1: Recognizing Warning Signs

    Jeanne Kirk, Deaconess Cross Pointe Deaconess Cross Pointe 04/11/2014
    Suicide is a leading cause of death in American teenagers, and the rate of suicide in middle aged adults has gone up more than 30% in the past decade.  Everyone should be aware of the warning signs of suicide, and what you can do if you’re worried about someone you love.  Most people give a sign or signal of some type—the key is to recognize it.

    Suicide is a topic that most people don’t really want to think about—let alone talk about. But sometimes, when you start talking to people, you find out how many lives have been touched by the suicide of someone they love.

    Suicide facts:
    • Suicide is preventable.
    • There is a suicide in the U.S. every 15 minutes.
    • In the U.S., 50% more people die by suicide than by homicide!
    • More than 90% of all suicides are related to a mood disorder or other psychiatric illness (often depression, which is highly treatable)
    • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds; only accidents and homicides are more frequent.
    • Males complete suicide at four times the rate of females, but more females attempt suicide.
    As mentioned before, most suicidal individuals display warning signs. There are four “types” of clues and warning signs that suicidal individuals usually exhibit:
    • Direct verbal clues
    • Indirect or coded verbal clues
    • Behavioral clues
    • Situational clues

    Direct verbal clues include statements such as:
    • I’ve decided to end it all, kill myself, etc.
    • I wish I were dead; I wish I wasn’t here anymore.
    • If ___________ happens/doesn’t happen, I’m going to kill myself. This “blank” could be things related to the end of a relationship or other personal crisis for the person.
    Indirect or coded verbal clues are a little less specific, but should not be ignored. Examples include:
    • I’m tired of life. I just want out.
    • What’s the point of going on?
    • My family would be better off without me.
    • No one would care if I was dead.
    • Soon I won’t be around/ you won’t have to worry about me much longer.
    • You’re going to regret how you’ve treated me.
    • Do they preserve organs for transplant if you die suddenly?
    • Here, take this (cherished possession). I won’t be needing it anymore. (Obviously, not referring to a family member giving a special gift or inheritance at an appropriate time.)

    That last point, of giving things away, leads us to the next category of warning signs.  Behavioral clues are signs someone may give that indicate they’re “putting their affairs in order” as part of considering suicide. These could include:
    • Withdrawing from family and friends.
    • Dramatic mood changes, sudden outbursts.
    • Sleeping all the time/unable to sleep.
    • Indicating that they feel sad, empty, depressed all the time.
    • No interest in prior activities they enjoyed.
    • Neglecting personal appearance.
    • Purchasing a gun (unexpectedly).
    • Stockpiling pills.
    • Putting personal and business affairs in order.
    • Making/changing a will.
    • Taking out new insurance.
    • Making funeral plans.
    • Giving away money or prized possessions.

    Finally, Situational clues are related to an event, or life circumstance, that can lead to more helpless/hopeless thoughts and feelings that can increase someone’s risk of suicide.
    • Sudden rejection by a loved one (breakups/separation/divorce). (This is a terribly sad cause of many teenage suicides—they don’t realize that this one person breaking up with them really isn’t the end of the world.)
    • Death of a spouse, child, friend—especially if it was sudden.
    • Diagnosis of a terminal illness.
    • A recent move/relocation that is unwanted (such as an elderly person moving to a relative’s home, or a long term care facility, or a young person being forced to leave friends).
    • Sudden development of an embarrassing situation or threat of loss of freedom, such as pending arrest, major personal scandal, etc.
    • Financial crisis, such as job loss, bankruptcy.

    In part two of this article, I’ll discuss what to do when you believe someone is considering suicide.
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