In the United States, every year approximately 42,773 people take their own lives.
There is no single cause for suicide, says the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition.”
Usually, there are warning signs.
“Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.”
The end of October 2016 my nephew took his own life. Even those closest to him — who knew he was struggling and were trying desperately to help — were blindsided. In the weeks that have followed his death, I’ve been involved in many family conversations about how we might have intervened somehow, been more observant, reached out to him, found him the professional support he needed. I think there’s a phrase for it: Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.
I had no idea he was struggling, but I came to realize that even if I did, I might not have known what to say to him. I think it’s a common dilemma — finding the right words to say to someone who is struggling.
There are no right or wrong words, says Dr. Marc Kaplan, a psychiatrist and Medical Director at Sweetser. He says sometimes people are afraid to mention the word suicide to someone at risk because they think it will put the idea into the person’s head. If you’re worried, the idea is already in the person’s head. Talking about it is something we should be doing.
If someone is in crisis, Dr. Kaplan says to call 911. If you think it’s a crisis, IT IS. If you’re not sure or if you just need to talk with someone (whether you’re worried about someone or you are contemplating suicide), there are several Suicide Hotlines you can call.
Here are some phone numbers and links.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line text HELLO to 741-741.
Maine Suicide Hotlines (An extensive list)
Listen to podcast
In this podcast with Dr. Kaplan, we discuss suicide warning signs and risk factors and what to say and do when you’re worried about someone. I hope you’ll take the time to listen. It’s only 36 minutes long. I need to point out a mistake in my introduction. I said my nephew was 27. He was only 26. This podcast and this guest post about grieving versus suffering written by therapist and fellow blogger Jim LaPierre are in his honor.