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Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a major health problem facing youth in our nation ages 10-24. It is currently the 2nd leading cause of death for that age range and takes approximately 6,100 lives each year.

Suicide is when a young person causes his or her own death on purpose. Before attempting to take his or her own life, a young person may have thoughts of wanting to die. This is called suicidal ideation. He or she may also have suicidal behavior such as being focused on doing things that cause his or her own death.

Research shows that 4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide give clear warning signs before the attempt. This means in 80% of suicide attempts, we have the opportunity to recognize a friend who may be struggling and get them help.

Having risk factors does not always mean that a young person will attempt suicide; however, several factors can put a young person at risk for suicide. Knowing these warning signs could help save a life.  

  • Suicide Threats: The following statements may indicate serious suicidal feelings
    • “I’d be better off dead.”
    • “I won’t be bothering you much longer.”
    • “You’ll be better off without me around.”
    • “I hate my life.”
    • “I am going to kill myself.”
      *Please remember that suicide threats are not always verbal.*
  • Depression: Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide attempts. Mental or addictive disorders are associated with 90% of suicide. 1 in 10 youth suffer from mental illness serious enough to be impaired, yet fewer than 20% receive treatment. 
  • Depression can be exhibited in many ways including the following which are detailed in more depth:
    • Sudden, abrupt changes in personality
    • Expressions of hopelessness and despair
    • Declining grades and school performance
    • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
    • Increased irritability and aggressiveness
    • Withdrawal from family, friends and relationships
    • Lack of hygiene
    • Changes in eating and sleeping habits 
  • Anger, Increased Irritability: Recent research has identified a connection between interpersonal violence and suicide. Suicide is associated with fighting for both males and females, occurs across all ethnic groups, and for youth living in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
    *You should be concerned if a friend is exhibiting unusually irritable behavior.*
  • Lack of Interest: You should be concerned if a friend suddenly starts to lose interest in sports or hobbies that they used to enjoy participating in.
    • The captain of the football team no longer wants to be on the team.
    • A dancer decides to leave the team because she does not like it anymore.
    • Your music loving friend decides to quit the band.
  • Sudden increase/ decrease in appetite
  • Sudden changes in appearance
  • Poor academic performance
  • Preoccupation with death and suicide: This can be seen throughout their:
    • Essays and writings about death
    • Poems about death
    • Artwork or drawings depicting death
    • Text messages
    • Social media posts and comments
    • Talking a lot about death or dying
  • Previous suicide attempts: Youth who have attempted suicide are at risk to do it again. In fact, they are 8 times more likely than youth who have never attempted suicide to make another suicide attempt
    • 1 out of 3 suicide deaths is not the individual’s first attempt.
    • The risk for completing suicide is more than 100 times greater during the 1st year after an attempt.
    • Take any instance of deliberate self-harm seriously.
  • Final Arrangements: Once the decision has been made to end their life, some young people begin making final arrangements.
    • Giving away prized or favorite possessions
    • Putting their affairs in order
    • Saying good-bye to family and friends
    • Making funeral arrangements

*By themselves, many of these observations are not sure signs that someone is suicidal, but could mean that they are struggling with issues in their lives and could use help.*

You should be concerned if a friend exhibits the warning signs above over an extended period of time. Have a game plan in place in the event that any one of your friends ever indicates they are hurting or thinking of hurting themselves. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone who seems to be depressed or hurting. At the very least, your friends will know there is someone who cares for them.

Talking about suicide does not give a person ideas about suicide. The opposite is true. If a person is depressed or unhappy, discussing their feelings openly and allowing them to express how they feel is one of the most helpful things you can do. Even if they have had suicidal thoughts, giving them permission to express those thoughts can relieve some of the anxiety and provide an avenue to recognize other ways to escape their pain and sadness.

Always be prepared to approach a trusted adult (ex: your favorite teacher/coach, a parent, clergy member, guidance counselor, doctor, or local mental health center) when you are worried about a friend. Never tell someone that you will keep their thoughts or feelings a secret. Be willing to risk a friendship to save their life.

Another good way to “Be Prepared” is to download The Jason Foundation’s smartphone app “A Friend Asks.” It is a free app and includes such topics as 1) Warning Signs; 2) Elevated Risk Factors; 3) How to Help a Friend – the Do’s and Don’ts in helping; and 4) Resources. The app even has a “Get Help Now” button which connects you to the closest certified Suicide Prevention Crisis Call Center that can help you or a friend. “A Friend Asks” is an easy way to have information and resources always as close as your smartphone.

It is important to encourage that individual to seek help. Reach out to a trusted adult, i.e. parent, teacher, school counselor or resource officer.

Resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 

Mississippi Department of Mental Health - 1-877-210-8513 

National Youth Crisis Line - 1-800-448-4663 

The Jason Foundation’s Smartphone App - A Friend Asks

B1 Pledge - http://b1.jasonfoundation.com

Disclaimer: The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is not responsible for the content of listed websites, which may have changed since review.


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