occurs almost twice as often as murder. Each year, about 36,000 people in the
United States die by suicide. In the U.S.:1
Many people have fleeting thoughts of death. Fleeting thoughts
of death are less of a problem and are much different from actively planning to
commit suicide. Your risk of committing suicide is increased if you think about
death and killing yourself often, or if you have made a
Most people who seriously
consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to
a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide
feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. A person who feels hopeless believes
that no one can help with a particular event or problem. A person who feels
helpless is immobilized and unable to take steps to solve problems. A person
who feels worthless is overwhelmed with a sense of personal failure.
Most people who seriously consider or attempt suicide have one or more of
the following risks:
The warning signs of suicide change with age.
Anytime someone talks about suicide or about wanting to die or
disappear, even in a joking manner, the conversation must be taken seriously. A
suicide attempt—even if the attempt did not harm the person—also must be taken
seriously. Don't be afraid to talk to someone you think may be considering
suicide. There is no proof that talking about suicide leads to suicidal
thinking or suicide. Once you know the person's thoughts on the subject, you
may be able to help prevent a suicide.
People who have suicidal
thoughts may not seek help because they feel they cannot be helped. This
usually is not the case. Many people with suicidal thoughts have medical
conditions that can be successfully treated. People who have suicidal thoughts
often have depression or substance abuse, and both of these conditions can be
treated. It is important to seek help when suicidal thoughts occur because
medical treatment usually is successful in diminishing these thoughts.
The possibility of suicide is most serious when a person has a plan for
committing suicide that includes:
People who are considering suicide often are undecided about
choosing life or death. With compassionate help, they may choose to
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you
should see a doctor or get other help.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need
or other emergency services now.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
The risk of a suicide attempt is
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
If you are thinking about suicide,
talk to someone about your feelings. It is important to remember that there are
people who are willing and able to talk with you about your suicidal thoughts.
With proper treatment, most suicidal people can be helped to feel better about
People for you to consider talking with include:
You may be able to help
someone who is considering suicide.
Call your doctor if any of the following symptoms occur before you see
your health professional:
Suicide can be prevented. While some
suicides occur without warning, most do not. You can learn to recognize the
warning signs of suicide and take action when the signs are present. Take
action to evaluate your suspicions if you think that someone you know is
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
health professional diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to
answer the following questions:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour,
toll-free suicide prevention service. Crisis centers are located in 130
locations across the United States. Each caller is routed to the closest provider
of mental health and suicide prevention services.
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Suicide: Fact sheet. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/suicide/index.html.
November 27, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& David Messenger, MD
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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