Suicide is the act of committing suicide on purpose. Suicidal behavior is any action that could result in a person’s death, such as taking a drug overdose or crashing a car on purpose.
Depression – suicide; Bipolar – suicide
Suicide and suicidal behaviors usually occur in people with one or more of the following:
People who attempt suicide are often trying to get away from a situation that seems unmanageable. Many who attempt suicide seek relief:
- Feeling ashamed, guilty or like a burden on others
- feel like a victim
- Feelings of rejection, loss, or loneliness
Suicidal behaviors can occur when there is a situation or event that the person finds overwhelming, such as:
- Aging (older people have the highest suicide rate)
- Death of a loved one
- Drug or alcohol use
- emotional trauma
- Severe physical illness or pain
- Unemployment or money problems
Risk factors for teen suicide include:
- Access to weapons
- Family member who committed suicide
- History of hurting oneself on purpose
- History of neglect or abuse
- Living in communities where there have been recent epidemics of youth suicide
While men are more likely than women to die by suicide, women are twice as likely to attempt suicide.
Most suicide attempts do not result in death. Many of these attempts are made in a way that makes rescue possible. These attempts are often a call for help.
Some people attempt suicide in ways that are less likely to be fatal, such as poisoning or overdose. Men are more likely to choose violent methods, such as shooting themselves in the head. Therefore, suicide attempts in men are more likely to result in death.
Relatives of people who attempt or succeed in committing suicide often blame themselves or become very angry. They may view the suicide attempt as selfish. However, people who attempt suicide often mistakenly believe that they are doing their friends and family a favor by removing themselves from the world.
Often, but not always, a person may show certain signs and behaviors before a suicide attempt, such as:
- Having trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
- Donate property
- Talking about leaving or the need to “get my things in order”
- Suddenly changing behavior, especially calmness after a period of anxiety
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Self-destructive behaviors, such as drinking a lot of alcohol, using illegal drugs, or cutting your body
- Walking away from friends or not wanting to go out
- Suddenly having problems at school or at work
- Talk about death or suicide, or even say they want to hurt themselves
- Talk about feeling hopeless or guilty
- Changing sleeping habits or eating habits
- Arrange ways to commit suicide (like buying a gun or lots of pills)
People at risk for suicidal behavior may not seek treatment for many reasons, including:
- They believe that nothing will help
- They don’t wanna tell nobody they got problems
- They think asking for help is a sign of weakness
- They don’t know where to go for help
- They believe their loved ones would be better off without them
A person may need emergency treatment after a suicide attempt. They may need first aid, CPR, or more intensive treatment.
People who attempt suicide may need to stay in the hospital for treatment and to reduce the risk of future attempts. Therapy is one of the most important parts of treatment.
Any mental health issues that may have led to the suicide attempt should be assessed and treated. This includes:
- Bipolar disorder
- borderline personality disorder
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Major depression
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Always take suicide attempts and threats seriously. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK), where you can receive free, confidential support at any time. time of day or night.
Immediately dial 911 or the local emergency number if someone you know has attempted suicide. DO NOT leave the person alone, even after calling for help.
About a third of people who attempt suicide will try again within a year. About 10% of people who make threats or attempt suicide will end up killing themselves.
When to contact a healthcare professional
Call a health care provider right away if you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide. The person needs mental health care immediately. DO NOT dismiss the person as just trying to get attention.
Avoiding alcohol and drugs (other than prescription drugs) can reduce the risk of suicide.
In homes with children or teenagers:
- Store all prescription medications up high and locked away.
- Don’t keep alcohol in the house or keep it locked up.
- Do not keep firearms at home. If you keep firearms at home, lock them up and keep the bullets separate.
In older adults, further investigate feelings of hopelessness, being a burden, and not belonging.
Many people who attempt suicide talk about it before making the attempt. Sometimes just talking to someone who cares and doesn’t judge them is enough to reduce the risk of suicide.
However, if you are a friend, family member, or know someone who you think may be attempting suicide, never try to handle the problem on your own. Ask for help. Suicide prevention centers have telephone helplines.
Never ignore a suicide threat or a suicide attempt.
American Psychiatric Association website. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.
Brendel RW, Brezing CA, Lagomasino IT, Perlis RH, Stern TA. The suicidal patient. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016: chapter 53.
DeMaso DR, Walter HJ. Suicide and attempted suicide. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum, NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Manual of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020: chap. 40.