Before a person
- youth or adult - decides to take their own life, they
think about it. Usually for long periods of time. Suicide
is their choice to "do something" to bring an end to their
The best way
to save a person's life is to look upon any suicidal act
as that the person is in deadly trouble and then to put
that knowledge into the stream of communication with the
troubled person, other loved ones, friends, and professionals.
Suicide Warning Signs
feel so depressed that they consider ending their lives.
Each year, almost 5,000 young people, ages 15 to 24, kill
themselves. The rate of suicide for this age group has nearly
tripled since 1960, making it the third leading cause of
death in adolescents and the second leading cause of death
among college age youth.
adult guidance more than ever to understand all the emotional
and physical changes they are experiencing. When teens'
moods disrupt their ability to function on a day-to-day
basis, it may indicate a serious emotional or mental disorder
that needs attention - adolescent depression.
that suicide attempts among young people may be based on
long standing problems triggered by a specific event. Suicidal
adolescents may view a temporary situation as a permanent
condition. Since youths do not have the life experiences
of adults, they may react intensely to seemingly trivial
frustrations. Feelings of anger and resentment combined
with exaggerated guilt can lead to impulsive, self-destructive
the Teenage Warning Signs
Four out of
five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings.
Pay attention to these warning signs:
threats, direct and indirect
- Poems, essays,
and drawings that refer to death
- Such statements
as, "I want to kill myself" or "I'm going to commit suicide,"
should always be taken seriously
change in personality or appearance
bizarre behavior, marked personality change
sense of guilt, shame or reflection
- Severe drop
in school performance
- Giving away
- Change in
eating and sleeping habits
from friends, family, and regular activities
actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
- Drug and
neglect of personal appearance
boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the
quality of schoolwork
complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions,
such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
- Loss of
interest in pleasurable activities
- Not tolerating
praise or rewards
- Offer help
and listen. Encourage depressed teens to talk about their
feelings. Listen, don't lecture.
- Trust your
instincts. If it seems that the situation may be serious,
seek prompt help. Break a confidence if necessary, in
order to save a life.
- Pay attention
to talk about suicide. Ask direct questions and don't
be afraid of frank discussions. Silence is deadly!
- Seek professional
help. It is essential to seek expert advice from a mental
health professional that has experience helping depressed
- Break the
cycle of secrecy and taboos. Alert key adults in the teen's
life - family, friends and teacher.
you a teenager or young adult thinking about suicide?
have sometimes felt like ending your life. Don't be ashamed
of it. Many people, young and old, share your feelings.
Talk to someone you trust. If you like, you can call one
of the agencies mentioned above and talk about the way you
feel without telling them who you are. Things seem very
bad sometimes. But those times don't last forever. Ask for
help. You can be helped. Because you deserve it.
65 or over completes suicide every 90 minutes -- 16 deaths
a day. Elders account for one-fifth of all suicides, but
only 12% of the population. Omitted are "silent suicides",
i.e., deaths from medical noncompliance and overdoses, self-starvation
or dehydration, and "accidents." The elderly have a high
suicide "success rate" because they use firearms, hanging,
and drowning. "Double suicides" involving spouses or partners
occur most frequently among the aged.
are the causes of Elderly Suicide?
is associated with depression and factors causing depression
including chronic illness, physical impairment, unrelieved
pain, financial stress, loss and grief, social isolation,
and alcoholism. Depression is tied to low serotonin levels.
Serotonin, which decreases with aging, is a neurotransmitter
which limits self-destructive behavior. Almost all suicides
by older Americans involve non-psychotic, non-bipolar depression
in people who are not substance abusers. This is the most
treatable form of depression.
and Elderly Warning Signs of Suicide
The most significant
indicator is an expression of suicidal intent.
of helplessness and hopelessness
about suicide or "ending it all." "Good-byes" such as
"This is the last time that you'll see me" or "I won't
need anymore appointments" should raise concern.
or risk-taking behavior
- Loss of
interest in things or activities that are usually found
withdrawal from friends, family, and usual activities.
back on self-care, and grooming
medical regimens (e.g., going off diets, prescriptions)
or expecting a significant personal loss (e.g., spouse)
hopeless and/or worthless ("Who needs me?")
affairs in order, giving things away, or making changes
medication or obtaining other lethal means
with death or a lack of concern about personal safety
- Sudden changes
in mood or behavior
use of alcohol or drugs
with someone who has committed suicide
with thoughts of death
Suicidal Adults and Elderly
people give clues about their feelings. Donšt ignore them.
- Don't be
afraid to ask someone you are worried about if he or she
is thinking of taking his or her own life. You cannot
make someone suicidal by asking a direct, caring question
- Let others
know about it
- Break what
could be called a fatal secret. Talk to the person, tell
your loved one that you are worried and give specific
reasons why. Stress that he or she is very important to
you and to other people
- Talk to
help, especially professional help
- Get loved
ones interested and responsive
- Create action
around the person
- Show response
that person to get help through a psychiatrist, social
worker, clergy member, or other mental health professionals
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