Five things to know about suicide

Suicide has become an almost daily reminder that sadness and despair affect people in every socioeconomic class. The list of prominent Americans who have taken their own life recently is staggering.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found a 25 percent increase in completed suicides across all age demographics. Also, the CDC says that suicide is the second highest cause of death in adolescents, and the ninth in adults.

Because of this, it’s increasingly important to be aware of the possible signs of suicidal ideation and how to help yourself or a loved one struggling with these thoughts. Here are five things to know.

1. Trust your intution

No one knows your loved one’s behavior better than you do. It’s important not to second-guess yourself. If you think your loved one is in trouble, it’s time to take action.

2. Start the conversation

An important step is to begin a dialogue, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. If your loved one can’t speak directly to you, encourage him/her to confide in a trusted friend or relative.

3. Help destigmatize mental illness

Treating behavioral health disorders with the same degrees of compassion and respect as we do physical ailments will go a long way toward giving people the courage to look for treatment. Too often, people are afraid to seek treatment because they are ashamed and afraid of being shunned by society. By helping to break the stigma attached to illnesses of the brain, we can be hopeful that people in need of psychiatric intervention will step forward to receive the treatment they desperately need.

4. Identify if the situation is an emergency

Keeping the lines of communication open is vital to handling the issue. If your loved one clearly expresses a desire to die and has a suicide plan, he/she needs to be immediately evaluated by a mental health professional and a treatment formulation will be developed. Once he/she is transported to the hospital, mental health professionals will perform safety and emotional disorder assessments, and then formulate a treatment plan.

5. Understand that it's not your fault

Survivor’s guilt can develop after the loss of a loved one to suicide. Such questions as “Why couldn’t I stop it?” or “Should I have done more?” are natural reactions to this tragedy. People who are close to those who complete suicide are especially vulnerable to feeling survivor’s guilt. If a loved one does complete suicide, talking about it and expressing your feelings allows you to properly go through the different stages of bereavement, and can help you navigate through this painful experience. 

Robert Dicker, MD, is associate director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital and Cohen Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Dicker is also an associate professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He specializes in the care and treatment of young people struggling with depression and suicide.

If you or a loved one has suicidal thoughts, or are living with depression, find the care you need. Contact Zucker Hillside Hospital: