They’re becoming more common
Recent deaths by suicide in the same week involving designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain have brought this troubling trend into the spotlight. If it seems it’s becoming more common, you’re right. In the United States, suicide rates increased in 44 states from 1999 through 2016, rising by more than 30 percent in 25 states, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reversing the trend will be tricky, as there’s no single cause for suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. But knowing the suicide warning signs—which can vary from person to person—may help you save a life. As a first step, learn what psychologists wish people knew about depression.
They copycat celebrities
There was an almost 10 percent increase in suicides—an additional 1,841 deaths—recorded in the United States in the four months following comedian Robin Williams’ death by suicide in 2014, according to a study in PLOS ONE. “That indicates just how powerful this kind of ‘contagion’ effect can be on a vulnerable person,” says Elizabeth Berger, MD, a child psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids with Character. When people who may be trying to manage their depression see this person they admire taking his own life, they see it as a way for them to escape their own misery. “The tragedy of Robin Williams’ death is that because he was a beloved public figure, people who were already suffering felt they had gotten permission to relieve their pain,” says Susan T. Lindau, MSW, MFA, LCSW, founder of Santa Monica Center for Acceptance & Change in West Los Angeles and an adjunct professor in the Department of Adult Mental Health and Wellness at the University of Southern California. “The voices decrying his death weren’t strong enough, persuasive enough, or prevalent enough to push those people experiencing suicidal thoughts to reach out for help.” If you’re having suicidal thoughts, don’t suffer in silence. Here are 10 silent signs you need depression medication.
They undergo drastic behavior changes
“Any significant and unexplained changes in behavior should at least be a cause for inquiry,” says Joel A. Dvoskin, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. “Significant negative changes are especially concerning.” However, behavior changes don’t mean a person is going to kill himself, he says. “Ask empathic and respectful questions,” he says. “How are you doing?” is a good start, he recommends. “When the person says or does anything that suggests or implies an intention to hurt himself or others, ask whether or not the person is intending to hurt himself or anyone else, stating it in the form of a question,” he says. Doing so is neither disrespectful nor intrusive, he says. Here’s how one teen talked someone out of suicide.