Understanding Suicide From a Mental Health Perspective

“In order to lead a fascinating life, one brimming with art, music, intrigue, and romance, you must surround yourself with precisely those things”

-Kate Spade

June 5, 2018 Kate Spade was found dead in her New York City Apartment after committing suicide. Survived by her 13-yer-old daughter and husband, Kate Spade was a world famous fashion designer and icon; most commonly know for her color pop handbags. Mental illness affects males and females of all ages, races, and socioeconomic classes. Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder followed closely by depression, two disorders that can be treated with medication and psychotherapy. Without treatment, mental health illnesses and substance abuse can lead to many complications including suicide. Suicide takes thousands of lives each year and many individuals who commit suicide live with their mental health disorder in silence for a long period of time. Individuals like Kate Spade may appear happy, successful and brilliant on the outside but may be extremely broken on the inside. Living in silent torture can drive any individual to suicidal ideations, regardless of their skin color, age or financial status.

Suicide statistics for 2016

  • Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people.
  • Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.
  • There were more than twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).

Eating disorders and suicide

Eating disorders are oftentimes accompanied with thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. In fact, suicide is the most common cause of death among individuals with eating disorders. Individuals with eating disorders are also at a higher risk for mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression.

Suicide versus self-injury

It is important to understand the difference between self-injury and suicide, and also how they are connected. Self-injury is a physical mean of harming one’s self, not with the intent to suicide, but as a negative coping skill often used to manage uncomfortable “bad” emotions. Self-injury is meant to be temporary. Alternatively, suicide is seen as a means to an end and meant to be permanent. While an individual can self-harm without being suicidal, the risk of suicide increases 50% within the first year after an episode of self-injury.

Warning signs associated with suicide

  • The following are some warning signs that someone may be at risk for suicide.
  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Suddenly happier, calmer.
  • Loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions.

Seeking help

What exactly can be done if you or a loved one is struggling with thoughts or ideations of suicide? While this is not a comfortable position to be in, you can provide tremendous support and encouragement to your loved one, offering much light and hope in their time of darkness. There are many steps that can be taken to help a suicidal individual. Never be afraid to reach out as the smallest gesture can make the greatest impact on an individual struggling on the verge between life and death. If you suspect that someone you know is at risk for suicide, take action and be proactive. Fifty to seventy-five percent of all people who attempt suicide confide in someone about their intention, so it is critical to be aware if someone is reaching out for help and take any warning signs seriously. You can also help by actively encouraging professional assistance, or in cases of a crisis, escorting a suicidal individual to a hospital emergency room to ensure they are receiving the help they need.