September was suicide awareness month, and before too much of October (or this Mental Illness Awareness Week) slips by, I wanted to address it. Did you know that the highest rate of suicide between 2000 and 2017 was not in teenagers but in adults aged 45 to 54? And when it comes to females, suicide rates were highest among those aged 45 to 64. In other words, our peers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide rates across the United States have increased 30 percent since 1999. Thirty percent! And while mental illness often plays a role, 54 percent of people who died by suicide didn’t have a known mental health condition.
Relationship problems, substance abuse, physical health problems, a recent or looming crisis of some kind, financial problems, criminal/legal problems, and loss of housing are all factors that contribute to suicide.
The National Institutes of Health lists these behaviors as some of the signs that someone is thinking about suicide.
They talk about:
- Wanting to die
- Great guilt or shame
- Being a burden to others
- Empty, hopeless, trapped, or having no reason to live
- Extremely sad, more anxious, agitated, or full of rage
- Unbearable emotional or physical pain
They take steps like:
- Making a plan or researching ways to die
- Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving away important items, or making a will
- Taking dangerous risks such as driving extremely fast
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Eating or sleeping more or less
- Using drugs or alcohol more often
If you are considering suicide, please get help. Call your doctor or the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
If you believe a friend, relative, or your partner is considering suicide, be direct. Ask them if they have suicidal thoughts. Make yourself available to them. Listen without judging. If you’re shocked, don’t show it. Encourage them to seek help, and help them find the right resources. These are the ways you show you care, and knowing that someone does care might be enough to make the person seek help.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.