Suicide – Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Do if My Teen is Thinking About Suicide?

If anyone ever tells you that they are thinking about suicide, you should take their distress seriously. If your teen talks about suicide, listen nonjudgmentally and help your teen get to a professional for evaluation and treatment. People consider suicide when they are hopeless and unable to see alternative solutions to problems. Suicidal behavior is most often related to a mental disorder or substance abuse. Suicidal behavior is also more likely to occur when people experience major stressful events. If someone is in imminent danger of harming themselves, do not leave that person alone. You may need to take emergency steps to get help, such as calling 911. When someone is in a suicidal crisis, it’s important to limit access to firearms or other lethal means of committing suicide.

What are the Most Common Methods of Suicide?

Firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide, accounting for 60% of all suicides. White males commit nearly 80% of all firearm suicides. The second most common method for men is hanging. The presence of a firearm in the home is an independent, additional risk factor for suicide. If your son is at risk for suicide, you should consider removing firearms from your home.

Can People Inherit the Risk for Suicide?

There is growing evidence that familial and genetic factors contribute to the risk for suicidal behavior. Major psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism and substance abuse, and certain personality disorders, which run in families, increase the risk for suicidal behavior. This does not mean that suicidal behavior is inevitable for individuals with this family history; it simply means that such persons may be more vulnerable. They should take steps to reduce their risk, such as getting evaluation and treatment at the first sign of mental illness.

What is “Suicide Contagion”?

Suicide contagion is when exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, peer group, or through media increases suicide and suicidal behaviors. Direct and indirect exposure to suicidal behavior precedes an increase in suicidal behavior in persons at risk for suicide, especially in adolescents and young adults.

Following exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors, people can minimize suicide risk by having family members, friends, peers, and colleagues of the victim get an evaluation by a mental health professional. People deemed at risk for suicide should then get additional mental health services.

Is it Possible to Predict Suicide?

At the current time there is no definitive measure to predict suicide or suicidal behavior. Researchers have identified factors that place individuals at higher risk for suicide, but very few persons with these risk factors will actually commit suicide. Risk factors include mental illness, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, history of being sexually abused, and impulsive or aggressive tendencies.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

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