By Dr. Leslie Bourne
Chief of Behavioral Health, Reliant Medical Group
Recently, many Americans were shocked by the deaths of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Their deaths remind us that suicide can affect anyone, even those who are highly successful and well known.
Shocking as it is, suicide is not uncommon. In fact, it is one of the top ten killers of Americans and becoming an increasing problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates increased 30 percent between 1999 and 2016. The highest rate of increase occurred among middle-aged Americans (the 45-to-64 age group). Although suicide is often linked to depression, studies have shown that approximately half the people who die from suicide do not have a known or diagnosed mental health condition.
Researchers have found that suicide victims were often going through a severe personal crisis within two weeks of their death. This crisis usually involved a relationship problem, or stresses caused by substance abuse, job concerns, or severe health or money issues.
So, how can we help those who may be at risk of harming themselves? Sadly, many of those who are at risk of suicide are ashamed to talk about it and reach out for help. For this reason, it’s important to recognize the key warning signs of suicide:
- Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
- Feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Planning a suicide (including online searches)
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Extreme mood swings
Any suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress and should not be ignored or taken lightly. It is okay to ask someone directly if they are thinking of suicide. In fact, it can be one of the best ways to identify someone at risk. If you fear that someone you know may be thinking of taking their own life, you should act quickly. A suicide attempt is often a rash and impulsive act. Many people who survive a suicide attempt are later grateful and go on to lead happy and fulfilled lives. You should always tell a trusted friend or family member that someone is at risk so they can ensure the person gets proper treatment. If someone confides in you that they may attempt suicide, you should never keep it a secret.
Suicides can sometimes occur in clusters. Researchers believe that media coverage of a suicide often spurs people who are thinking of taking their life to act. Young people, in particular, can be influenced by the suicide of someone they know and go on to harm themselves. If a suicide occurs in your town, you should be particularly vigilant. Counseling should be strongly considered for any young person who loses a classmate or close friend.
If you feel depressed or are thinking of harming yourself, please contact your health care provider immediately for help. You can also contact the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help at 1-800-273-8255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Caring people wish to help and support you.
About Leslie Bourne, PhD
Dr. Leslie Bourne almost became a lawyer instead of a doctor. “I went to Cornell University as an undergraduate because they had a good law school there. However, I took a great course in psychology in my junior year and decided that’s what really interested me. So I decided to change course and go into the field of psychology.”
In her work as a behavioral psychologist, Dr. Bourne always respects the patient and tries to...View profile View posts by this doctor