Considering the Risks That Lead to Self-harm or Suicidal Thoughts and behavior

Considering the Risks That Lead to Self-harm or Suicidal Thoughts and behavior Considering the Risks That Lead to Self-harm or Suicidal Thoughts and behavior

Depression, prior suicide attempts, psychiatric disorders, intense anxiety, and addiction are common risk factors for suicide.

Risk factors

Yet, the desire to take one's life can strike at any time, especially with adolescents. Look out for sudden mood changes in people at risk, even a sudden and unusual upbeat mood. Those who speak of being a burden to others, feeling trapped, unbearable pain and having no reason to live may also be at risk. Other potential risk factors could be being harassed or bullied, severe illness, abuse, neglect, or possession of narcotics.

Talking to someone who is expressing thoughts of self-harm

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in United States and the second leading cause of death in people between 10-24 years old. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.

If a loved one expresses thoughts or plans of suicide initiate a conversation. Make it clear that you are committed to follow up on them. Let them be aware that there are resources for help. Family, friends, therapists, hotlines, support groups and other resources can make a difference.

Contrary to popular belief, being direct with someone who is suicidal does not drive them closer to it. Ask directly how they are coping with their challenges. Ask them if they have a plan for taking their life or if they have thought about it. It is important to investigate their thoughts and hear them thoroughly.

If you are struggling

Making sense of suicidal feelings can be extremely difficult, confusing, and painful. You may feel you are drowning in complex emotions such as hurt, anger, sadness, shame, embarrassment, and guilt. You may even feel overwhelmed or numb. It is important to reach out. Make a list of people you can turn to for help. Write down or pay extra attention to warning signs like your mood and behavior. Make a list of activities you can do to distract yourself. Take time to make your environment safe and comfortable. See if any techniques can help you relax. Reach out to a supportive profession. Make a list of professionals that are available to speak with you in times of need. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-8255.

Understanding the facts/myths of what leads to self-harming thoughts and behaviors

Suicide stems from deep feelings of hopelessness. When no other solution seems to work a person might feel that taking one's own life is the only form of relief. As bleak as the situation might seem at the time, it is likely temporary. Most survivors of suicide attempts go on to live rewarding lives.

  • Myth: Suicide or sucide ideation is just for attention.

Fact: Every threat should be taken seriously. Do not dismiss a threat as a device for attention seeking. Giving love and attention might save that person's life.

  • Myth: Most suicides occur without warning.

Fact: There are usually warning signs preceding suicides. It is important to identify them.

  • Myth: Once a person is set on suicide there is no way to stop them.

Fact:  A suicidal crisis can often be short lived. Helping a person through that can make a huge difference. Talking, staying with the person, and helping them build plans can save their life. Strong immediate help is valuable.

  • Myth: Suicide is painless.

Fact: Suicide is often very painful. Fictional portrayals do not accurately portray the agony most methods of suicide inflict.

  • Myth: If you have thoughts of suicide, you are depressed.

Fact: That is not always the case. Depression can contribute but is not always present for suicidal thoughts or attempts to occur.

  • Myth: Young people contemplating suicide will resent the person who tries to help and will have an angry reaction.

Fact: Anger is usually a defensive barrier for adolescence and young adults. For most, it is a real relief to have someone truly care about their well-being. Ultimately, sharing and talking about an emotional state and having someone available to listen is extremely helpful. Studies show that young people are often glad that someone intervened.


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