Warning signs of suicide

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 1) — Suicide is an enormous public health problem around the world. Each year approximately one million people worldwide die by suicide, making it one of the leading causes of death.

A recent report from the Institute of Medicine (National Academy of Sciences) estimated that in the United States the value of lost productivity due to suicide is $11.8 billion per year.

Reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that suicide accounts for the largest share of the intentional injury burden in developed countries and that suicide is projected to become an even greater contributor to the global burden of disease over the coming decades.

The seriousness and scope of suicide has led the WHO to call for an expansion of data collection on the prevalence of and risk factors for suicide and nonfatal suicidal behavior to aid in the planning of public-health strategies and health-care policies and in the monitoring of behavioral responses to policy changes and prevention efforts.

Suicide does not have one single cause. There are factors that may increase the chances of one committing suicide, such as substance abuse and untreated depression, being some of the more common ones. Just as there are factors that may increase the chances of suicide, factors like a trusted group of friends, and a loving family may protect the person from hurting themselves.

According to Suicide awareness voices of education (SAVE), warning signs that a person may be in acute danger of suicide may include:

• Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself;

• Looking for a way to kill oneself;

• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;

• Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain;

• Talking about being a burden to others;

• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;

• Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;

• Sleeping too little or too much;

• Withdrawing or feeling isolated;

• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and

• Displaying extreme mood swings.

While risk factors may not always predict if a person will commit suicide, they portray the character of someone who is most likely to consider, attempt, or actually cause harm to themselves. Some risk factors for suicide include:

• Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders

• Alcohol and other substance use disorders

• Hopelessness

• Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies

• History of trauma or abuse

• Major physical or chronic illnesses

• Previous suicide attempt

• Family history of suicide

• Recent job or financial loss

• Recent loss of relationship

• Easy access to lethal means

• Local clusters of suicide

• Lack of social support and sense of isolation

• Stigma associated with asking for help

• Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment

• Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma

• Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and internet)

Aside from knowing the tell-tale signs of suicide, it's good to be aware of protective factors that are shown to be characteristics that make a person less likely to commit suicide. Also, protective factors can promote resilience and ensure connectedness with others during difficult times, thereby making suicide behaviors less likely. Some characteristics of protective factors include:

• Effective clinical care for mental, physical and substance use disorders

• Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions

• Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide

• Strong connections to family and community support

• Support through ongoing medical and mental health care relationships

• Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution and handling problems in a non-violent way

• Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation

Being aware of the problem is the first step in saving yourself or someone you know from possible suicide. If we only listen a little better, care a little more, and act a little quicker, we can all make a difference.

If you are in emotional crisis and in need of immediate assistance, you may call the HOPELINE by Natasha Goulbourn Foundation (02) 804-4673 and ‎0917-558-4673. GLOBE and TM subscribers may call 2919 toll-free.