What are some of the warning signs for suicide?

December 1st, 2008

By Dr. Thomas Jacob, David Lawrence Center Adult Staff Psychiatrist

What are some of the warning signs for suicide?

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. The most common psychiatric diagnoses associated with suicide are major depression or bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse, anxiety disorder and personality disorder. About 10% of those who commit or attempt suicide have no identifiable psychiatric illness.

Some of the warning signs of suicide are:

  • worsening symptoms of existing psychiatric illness especially mood or psychosis
  • relational and job related stressors
  • expressing thoughts of self harm
  • difficulty accessing care
  • not being able to afford care and medications
  • refusing to seek care
  • worsening chronic medical illnesses

Classic risk factors for suicide are:

  • male gender
  • age above 60 years
  • white or native American
  • widowed or divorced
  • living alone
  • unemployed or having current financial difficulties
  • recent losses for example a job or close relationships
  • prior suicide attempts
  • excessive risk taking behaviors or a having a history of risky behaviors to get attention and validation

How do you decide to use the Baker Act?

The Baker Act is used by law enforcement and health care providers to bring individuals for involuntary examination. The Baker Act is used when a risk exists. Besides suicide, there could be risk of homicide, self neglect, neglecting dependents, of being neglected by abuse or a medical risk where individuals do not comply with medical treatments.

How can I help someone who may be suicidal?

Any expression of self harm must be taken seriously and brought to the attention of a health care provider. If you feel someone is suicidal, call 911 or, if they will come with you voluntarily, bring them to the David Lawrence Center Crisis Stabilization Unit for an assessment. Being empathetic, not leaving the individual alone and engaging them in conversation until help arrives can help the suicidal individual. Access to guns, dangerous devices and pills should be eliminated.

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