by Laura Geftman, LCSW
The world continues to be shocked over about the many high-profile suicides including Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Chester Bennington, Robin Williams, and Chris Cornell. Sadly we read news reports about what went wrong for those who seemed to have everything going for them and yet took their own lives. While each of these lives lost are picked apart in the media, it’s important to recognize that the increase reports of suicide are not only in the news media. These surprise deaths have put a national spotlight on larger problem.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Suicide rates have increased by 50% from 2000 to 2016, and they increased more than 30% in half the states since 1999.
- In 2016, nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in the US.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause for death for Amercians overall.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10-34.
- Almost 10 million adults self-reported serious thoughts of suicide.
- More than 1.3 adults self-reported a suicide attempt.
Contributing Factors to Suicide
Suicidologists regularly state the suicide is not caused by a single factors. Suicide seems to be more than a mental health concern. A recent CDC study showed that those with and without known mental health conditions reported a range of factors contributing to suicide including relationship problems, life stressors, and substance abuse.
Substance abuse is most definitely a factors considered in this study. It’s worth noting that 85% of those known to have a mental health condition were more likely to have a substance abuse history. However it is not indicated what kind of drugs were reported and/or if cannabis was considered an addictive drug for the purpose of this study.
National Suicide Prevention Week
This week marks National Suicide Prevention Week. It’s a chance to spread awareness, progress the conversation, protect mental health rights, and hopefully save some lives. Talking about suicide and mental health can make all the difference.
Dr. Christine Moutier, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) told “Good Morning America,” “…the face is that if you think oh you’re life has not been touched by suicide ever, it probably mean that it’s just not being talked about.”
The week (and really this whole month- National Suicide Prevention Month) is a time to share resources and stories in effort to shed light on suicide, raise awareness, and connect those in need with appropriate services.
What Are Suicide Risk Factors
People talk about seeing the signs or not seeing the signs, but what are the signs that someone may considering suicide? The thing is there’s not a list. It’s something that tends to be more gradual and is specific to the individual. If you sense a change in behavior, increased depression or sadness, acting out of character, withdrawing from family & friends, a change in activity level or energy- it is time to ask more questions, get others involved and take action.
Cannabis & Suicide
There have been various sturdies looking that the link between cannabis and suicide. And as you might expect, the studying say both- there is and is not a relationship between the two. Older (and definitely more biased) studies report there is increased suicidal behavior with cannabis, and the newer research refutes them. There does not yet seem to be an unbiased creditable resource about this. It is, however, worth noting that substance abuse (including cannabis) had been proven as one of multiple factors of suicidality.
How You Can Help A Suicidal Person
Ultimately the most important thing you can do for someone who may considering suicide is to be available. The means being here to listen without judgement, check in with them, and support them The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline defined five steps to help someone who may be considering suicide:
- Ask. Don’t be afraid to ask. It will not put an idea in their head but it may help them talk things through.
- Keep them safe. If someone indicates they are considering suicide, it is important to seek immediate medical attention especially if they share their plan or have access to firearms.
- Be there. Let them know they have a should to lean on and listen without judgement.
- Help them connect. Support is very important for someone battling the idea of suicide. Help them connect to their support system.
- Follow up. Continue to check in with them.
Help Is Available
If you are or someone you know I’d questioning suicide, it is important to remember that regardless of what you may think- you are not alone. People do want to help you.