WARNING: This article describes the signs, symptoms, and statistics of mental health challenges, particularly suicide, which may be triggering or unsuitable for some readers. Reader discretion advised.
The United States is currently experiencing a mental health crisis. The isolation and confusion of the recent pandemic brought to light an astounding number of people living with depression, anxiety, and other mental health and substance use challenges. While many of these people have been dealing with these challenges since before the pandemic, the sheer scope of the crisis has been brought into sharper focus since the onset of COVID-19.
One of the most difficult mental health issues to talk about is suicide. For many people who struggle with suicidal thoughts or for the families of those who die by suicide, it can be very painful and stigmatizing to discuss. Even for those outside those two groups, suicide is often a taboo subject.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall suicide rate in the U.S. decreased 3% during the pandemic despite the fact that calls to suicide hotlines went up nearly 800%. For me, what this shows is that when people suffering from suicidal ideation reach out to the resources available to them, they improve their chances for a better outcome.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shares these statistics on their website: 79% of all people who die by suicide are male; suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 and the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.; 18.8% of high school students and 11.3% of young adults aged 18-25 experience suicidal ideation each year.
When a person dies by or attempts suicide, those left behind often claim they did not see it coming, that they had no idea their loved one was having suicidal thoughts. In many cases, the person experiencing suicidal ideation conceals their thoughts and feelings from those around them. However, there are certain warning signs that may be observed in people experiencing suicidal thoughts.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) lists the following warning signs: talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself; looking for a way to kill oneself; talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose; talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to others; increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious, agitated, or reckless; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawing or feeling isolated; showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and displaying extreme mood swings.
(Please note this is not an exhaustive list, but these signs may be indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help.)
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While suicide prevention is important every day of the year, I encourage everyone to take some time this month to learn more about mental illness and suicide. Taking the time to increase your awareness will help reduce the stigma of mental illness and suicide and may allow you to support someone experiencing a mental health challenge.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call or text 988 or text TALK to 741741.
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