the real facts about suicide

I have been studying suicide and I found a lot of information from the American Foundation for Suicide Preventionvery helpful:

What is the best language to use when talking about suicide? The words we choose can sometimes sound harsh or judgmental, even when we don’t mean them to. It is best to follow the lead of those who have been affected by suicide when talking about this sensitive subject. Although we may hear that someone has “committed suicide,” most people find “died by suicide” to be more objective and less judgmental. The term suicide is best used to describe the act, but not the person who died in that way. Nobody wants to hear their loved one’s life summed up by the circumstances of their death. It is generally accepted to refer to “someone who died by suicide” with those words, or as a “suicide decedent.” The term “successful suicide” can be hurtful and jarring; suicide is never a success. What would be best is to ask the person you are talking with what words are most comfortable for them. Everyone is so different.

In 2012 (the most recent year for which data are available), 40,600 suicide deaths were reported in the United States, making suicide the tenth leading cause of death for Americans. That year, someone in the U.S. died by suicide every 12.9 minutes.

At least 90 percent of all people who died by suicide were suffering from a mental illness at the time, most often depression.

In all age groups in the U.S., about 75 to 80 percent of people who die by suicide are male.

While we all go through painful experiences, suicide is not a normal response, and only a small percentage of people react by taking their lives. Suicide almost always results from the pain and desperation of mental illness. When researchers carefully examine suicide deaths through a “psychological autopsy,” they often find that the person had been suffering from an unrecognized, untreated mental disorder, like depression or bipolar disorder.

Depression and bipolar disorder (or manic-depressive disorder) are both mood disorders. People who are depressed tend to feel consistently “down,” while those with bipolar disorder alternate between feeling depressed and manic, or “up.” Someone who is in a manic phase of their bipolar disorder will typically feel high like everything is going great but in a frantic sort of way. They may also feel irritable, agitated, distracted, and grandiose (full of themselves). They sleep less and don’t feel tired. They may be extra talkative, work in a frenzied manner, or show excessive or impulsive behavior, like going on shopping sprees. These manic mood swings are generally severe enough to markedly interfere with work, school, or relationships, although for some they are less severe. Untreated bipolar disorder is a risk factor for suicide and should be treated by a trained mental health professional, usually a psychiatrist.

Will asking someone if they are considering suicide plant the idea in their mind? Studies show that people do not start thinking about suicide just because someone asks them about it. If you suspect a friend or loved one is suicidal, tell them that you are worried and want to help them. Don’t be afraid to ask whether they are considering suicide and if they have a specific plan in mind. Having a plan may indicate that they are farther along and need help right away. Sometimes people who are thinking about suicide won’t tell you so because they don’t want you to stop them. Your direct, non-judgmental questions can encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. Regardless of their response, if you suspect that the person may be suicidal, get help immediately.