Talk Saves Lives

There’s no single cause for suicide, but some are at more risk for suicide than others.
January 2019, Volume 42, Issue 5

There’s no single cause for suicide, but some are at more risk for suicide than others. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) breaks down the risk factors and warning signs that increase the chance that a person might try to take his or her life.

Risk Factors

AFSP divides the risk factors into three categories—health, environmental, and historical factors. These risk factors are:

  • Mental health conditions like depression, substance use disorders, bipiolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia and psychosis;
  • Chronic health condition or pain;
  • Traumatic brain injury;
  • Access to firearms and drugs;
  • Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems, or unemployment;
  • Stressful life events like the death of a loved one;
  • Exposure to another person’s suicide or to sensationalized accounts of suicide;
  • Previous suicide attempts;
  • Family history of suicide; and
  • Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma.

Warning Signs

Most people who take their lives exhibit at least one warning sign, either through their words or through their actions. AFSP lists the following as common warning signs:

  • If a person talks about killing themselves, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, or having unbearable pain;
  • If a person’s behavior changes to include increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawing from activities, isolating from family and friends, sleeping too little or too much, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, aggression, or fatigue; and
  • If a person displays depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation, agitation, or rage.

What You Can Do

If you suspect someone is having trouble, assume you are the only one who will reach out to see if they need help. AFSP recommends you ask them directly about suicide. Listen to their story. Show understanding and listen to their concerns seriously. Let them know they matter to you.

If a person says they’re thinking about suicide, stay with them and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

If you’re struggling, reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or text TALK to 741741. Go to your primary care provider or urgent care center. Find a mental health provider. Call 911 in emergencies.

For more tips on helping someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, visit the AFSP website.

Copyright © 2018. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.

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