If you want to prevent suicide, it's important to understand depression. While most of us feel sad or low, sometimes, feelings of depression are longer lasting and often more severe for those experiencing it.
When someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of depression, one of the best ways loved ones and friends can cope with the illness is to be prepared. That means learning about depression and its effects, to better understand what is happening and to be able to develop and use coping strategies.
This is critically important when you consider that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people between ages 15 and 24. For adolescents, the rate of suicides has reached its highest level in almost two decades, with more than 6,200 suicides reported in 2017 among youth aged 15 to 24.
Every September, World Suicide Prevention Day is commemorated, to provide actions for preventing suicides. The risk factors for suicide should be taken seriously, and many options are available for help.
Some of the risk factors in learning about suicide include:
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Mood disorders and social anxiety
- Substance abuse and/or alcohol disorders
- History of abuse or mistreatment
- Family history of suicide
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Physical illness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Social or financial loss
- Relationship loss
- Isolation or lack of social support
There are many ways friends and family can help a suicidal adolescent (or adult) who is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Those include providing unconditional love and support; trying to communicate that you are there to help and expressing your feelings clearly and directly.
Depressed children, in particular, often feel as if there is no one to turn to for help. In those cases, encourage them to talk about their feelings. When depression affects a child, it is essential to resist telling the youngster what to feel or do. Additionally, working together as a team and keeping lines of communication open is important. It is also important to be a good listener.
The issue of depression can be discussed with a primary care provider, and contacting a mental health counselor may be helpful. Even if the young person is unwilling or unable to attend a counseling session, it may be beneficial if their parents or guardians make an appointment with a counselor to discuss their worries and concerns.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is also an invaluable and immediate resource that is available 24 hours a day. Posting the number or making it possible for someone who is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts is critical.
Because the issues associated with thoughts of suicide may be specific for a particular person or age group, the Lifeline has resources specifically for youth. But it also has help for veterans, suicide attempt survivors, people in the LGBTQ community, Spanish speakers, loss survivors, Native Americans, disaster survivors, and more.
For those around teenagers who may be considering suicide, it’s important not to promise to “keep it a secret.” Instead, suicide prevention experts suggest telling the friend about the available help, while also sympathizing and listening.