WASHINGTON – It’s a matter of life or death that few people are willing to discuss. But more Americans die by suicide than by homicide.
“It is unfortunately very stigmatized and people don’t want to talk about it,” says psychologist Gregory Jones with District Psychotherapy.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and Jones says it is time to shed light on a hidden crisis.
“I think countless suicides can be prevented if people know the signs to look for, the symptoms to look for, and how to support a loved one who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts,” Jones says.
Most often, suicidal tendencies are linked to chronic depression. Jones says the population most at risk is veterans returning from war.
And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the biggest increase it has seen in recent years has been among the middle-aged — most notably, the baby boomers.
Suicide among teens remains an immense problem and it is increasing with the prevalence of social media as adolescents who are prone to bullying find no escape.
At the other end of the demographic scale, is the problem of suicidal tendencies among seniors.
“The elderly have always been a high risk population along with teenagers, due to chronic illness, loss of loved ones, quality of living,” Jones says.
Men and women attempt suicide at similar rates. But a man is more likely to use a gun, and far more men than women actually succeed in taking their own lives.
Jones says friends and family should be on the lookout for certain clues. He says people contemplating suicide experience withdrawal and isolation. They may start giving away important belongings, or leaving messages online to say goodbye.
Others give verbal clues, he adds.
“People may talk about having a plan or they may say things like, ‘I don’t want to live anymore.’ And those things need to be taken seriously,” Jones says.
He says talk to them, really listen and offer support.
The National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-SUICIDE, can be a great source of information and help. But Jones says “if you feel that person is in imminent danger and going to harm themselves, call 911.”