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Understanding Suicide

An average of 87 individuals per day –one every 17 minutes– will die by suicide. Most die, not because they want to end their life, but because they feel they must end their pain.

People in the midst of a suicidal crisis perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. They can’t think clearly or make decisions; can’t sleep, eat or work; can’t see themselves as worthwhile; can’t see any possibility of change; can’t stop the pain.

Suicide results from a complex interaction of many factors: a biological predisposition, a major psychiatric illness and an acute life stress.

The risk of suicide in people with major depressive disorder is about 20 times that of the general population. More than 90 percent of people who complete suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder, commonly a depressive disorder.

“Depression is at the heart of most suicides,” writes Kay Redfield Jamison in her book Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide. “Their perceived options narrow dangerously and they see death as the only solution. They see the future with futility and despair.

“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear spare or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present and the present is painful beyond solace.”

Hopelessness is one of the most consistent warning signs of suicide. People can usually bear the pain of depression as long as they believe that things will get better.

Know the signs. If you are having suicidal feelings, know that life can be worth living again. There is help. If someone close to you may be at risk, know how to help.

Facts about suicide

  • Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death among adults in the United States, but the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-years-olds. (The second in western states.)
  • Every year, more than 17,000 Americans kill themselves with a gun; two-thirds more than the number who use a gun to kill another person.
  • Eight of the 10 states with the highest suicide rates are in the intermountain region.
  • Males complete suicide at a rate four times that of females; however, females attempt suicide three times more often than males.
  • The highest suicide rates of any age group occur among persons aged 65 years and older.

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