The act of voluntarily ending one’s life is a tragic event that causes immeasurable emotional repercussions and irreplaceable losses of human lives. Suicide is a difficult topic to have a conversation about, but the only way to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts is by knowing the statistics, understanding risk and protective factors, dismantling the myths, and being aware of the resources that are available in our communities.
In 2015, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed that suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. The suicide rate has been slowly increasing in the last decade, and in 2016, the suicide rate was 13.9. In this same year, there was over a million suicide attempts and a little more than 44,000 people took their own lives. A total number of 3,488 Texans took their own lives in 2016 making the Texas suicide rate 12.5. (American Association of Suicidology, 2016).
Suicide rates differ between genders, age groups, and sexual orientation. In 2016, the suicide rate for women was 6.2 and for men it was 21.8. Although, the rates differ at different age groups, the rates for females indicate that they have the highest rate for those ages between 45-64 years old, and for men, the suicide rate was the highest in males 75 years and older (AAS, 2016).
An individual can commit suicide at any age. Although the highest number of suicides are committed by adults, suicide is the second leading cause of death in individuals between the ages of 15-34, and the third leading cause in children between the ages of 10-14 (AAS, 2016).
Youth who are a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. They are three times more likely to report thoughts of suicide in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts. For instance, 29.4% of this group attempted suicide in comparison to 6.4% of heterosexual youth (AAS, 2016).
Risk and Protective Factors & Signs:
There are multiple risk factors that increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt including previous suicide attempts, increased substance abuse, mental disorders such as anxiety, lack of access to mental health care, chronic illness, and many others (AAS, 2016). If an individual is part of the LGBT community, additional risk factors include experiences of stigma, violence, familial conflict, and bullying can increase suicidal thoughts (AAS, 2016). Protective factors that reduce the likelihood of suicide include social support, access to mental health care, self-esteem, and religiosity (Suicide Prevention Resource Center, n.d.).
It is imperative to be aware of warning signs such as behavioral changes that can indicate someone may be thinking about suicide. IS PATH WARM is an easy mnemonic that can allow everyone to identify such signs (AAS, n.d.).
I- ideation (suicidal thoughts)
S- substance abuse
P- purposelessness (no purpose for living)
T- trapped (expressing there is no way out)
W- withdrawal (from friends and family)
R- recklessness (engaging in dangerous behaviors)
M- mood changes
Educating and raising awareness is imperative for breaking up myths and better understanding suicide. According to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), unlike the myths, suicide doesn’t happen without warning. Suicide and suicide attempts among the youth occur after expressing plans. Understanding the previously mentioned signs is imperative to prevent suicide. Secondly, individuals don’t overreact to life events. All forms of crises should be treated with seriousness and attentive care. What may be a simple problem for someone may be a crushing distress for someone else – and that’s OK. Actively listening to someone expressing their emotions can prevent a suicide. Finally, talking about suicide will not make things worse. Although unfortunately a taboo topic, openly talking about suicide allows teenagers battling suicidal thoughts express their emotions and entrust in others. Remember, don’t be afraid to directly ask someone if he or she is considering suicide.
A Message to All:
If you or you know someone who are having suicidal thoughts please seek help and reach out to the numbers provided. There is help and resources are available for you. You are not alone. You are wanted. Like you, many experience suicidal thoughts and have recovered, and you can too. If you have lost a relative or friend due to suicide we encourage you to also seek help.
Sources of Support:
If you or a loved are having suicidal thoughts, you can always find help using any of the hotlines below. You can get in contact with someone through a phone call, text message, or through your computer. If you or someone are in danger, call 911.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will assist you from a secure line via text messages if you Text HOME to 741741
- Visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat to chat with a counselor via online
- Visit www.imalive.org to chat with someone trained in crisis intervention
- Tropical Texas Behavioral Health Center Crisis Line: 1-877-289-7199
- Border Regional Behavioral Health Crisis Line: 1-800-643-1102
- UTRGV Vaquero Crisis Line: 956-665-5555
References available upon request
(Co-Authors include Dr. Mercado’s Mental Health Lab at UTRGV: Abigail Nunez-Saenz, Andy Torres & Paola Salazar)