While the National Institute of Mental Health points out that youth suicides are still relatively rare events overall, recent data suggests cases are on the rise. According to the CDC, the suicide rate for children and young adults from 10 to 24 increased nearly 60 percent between 2007 and 2018.
With September recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we reached out to OCDE’s regional mental health coordinators and the department’s Crisis Response Network to share some of the risk factors and warning signs associated with suicide, along with steps to take if you believe someone needs help.
The National Institute of Mental Health says risk factors vary depending on age, gender and ethnic group, and they may change over time. But some factors that increase an individual’s risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors are:
Depression, anxiety and other mental disorders
Substance abuse disorder
A prior suicide attempt
A family history of suicide
Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
Firearms in the home
Having recently been released from jail or prison
Exposure to suicidal behavior of others, such as family members or peers
The NIMH notes, however, that many people who have these risk factors are not suicidal.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has identified three main areas to assess — talk, behavior and mood. Of those who die by suicide, the foundation says, most individuals exhibit one or more of the following warning signs:
They talk about:
Having no reason to live
Being a burden to others
They exhibit these behaviors, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Exploring ways to end their lives, such as online searches for common methods
Withdrawing from activities
Isolating from family and friends
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions
They display these moods:
Loss of interest
What to do next
According to the Mayo Clinic, the first step is to find out whether the person is in danger of acting on suicidal feelings. Be open and sensitive while asking direct questions like:
Do you ever feel like just giving up?
Are you thinking about dying?
Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
Are you thinking about suicide?
The Mayo Clinic says asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings won’t push someone into doing something self-destructive. In fact, offering an opportunity to talk about feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.
How to get help
For immediate help, call 9-1-1. Do not leave the person alone, and contact trained professionals for help immediately. Share any warning signs and risk factors you’ve observed.
Here are some additional resources available at no cost.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-8255 is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline that’s available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. It provides Spanish-speaking counselors, as well as options for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
OC WarmLine. Available 24/7, the OC WarmLine is a free and confidential telephone service providing emotional support and resources to Orange County residents. Call 714-991-6412.
NAMI Orange County. NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. Its local affiliate, NAMI Orange County, has been offering online classes and support groups via Zoom.Visit www.namioc.org.