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SAD PERSONAS: Understanding the Risk Factors of Suicide

Suicide is one of those topics that people avoid at all costs. It’s an incredibly painful subject to bring up or imagine, but also an incredibly important one. By bringing awareness to the facts and statistics surrounding suicide, and having conversations about it, we can help reduce suicide rates in our communities. 

Having these healthy conversations is critical in our fight against suicide because they can help us eliminate false stigmas. Some common, incorrect stigmas around suicide include:

“If I initiate conversations about suicide, it might give someone the idea to take their own life.”

This is FALSE. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, studies have proven that by talking about suicide, the rate and likelihood actually decreases. If someone is already thinking about possibly ending their life then they’re already thinking about it. By having healthy conversations, you might actually validate their feelings, and show them they are not alone. This realization can be incredibly helpful, and encouraging a discussion can also help others find a way to talk about the thoughts and feelings they’ve yet to be able to vocalize. 

“They always look so happy. There’s no way they would ever hurt themselves.”

Sadly, people can be pretty skilled at hiding their depression. It’s hard to understand exactly what other people are going through unless they share those details on their own, and some people share less than others. Digging deeper with your friends and loved ones, asking them about their life, and showing your support can not only help you understand what others’ are going through, but also show them that you care about them. 

“They don’t have any way to do it. I don’t have to worry about them.” 

In most cases, when someone is suicidal, they have thought it through enough to know how they’d want to move forward with it, even if the method isn’t obvious to others. Some people have thought of a plan for long enough or have back up plans so that when they finally decided to commit suicide, their chances are more likely to complete the action. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask your friend or family member if they have a plan or an idea of how they would go through with it. This detail can let you know the severity of the situation and their seriousness. 

“They’re faking it. They just want attention.”

It just doesn’t matter. Whatever a person’s reason is for wanting or attempting to commit suicide, doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are hurting and are in need of help. Even if it is a plea for attention, that cry for help could turn into the loss of their life. Suicidal thoughts and feelings should never be taken lightly and are always an indicator of mental health concerns that need to be addressed. If someone’s plea for help is overlooked and they end up dying by suicide, that’s it. It’s not a decision that can be taken back, which is why it’s so important to take suicidal thoughts seriously.

Suicide Warning Signs + Risk Factors

There are various risk factors that to be aware of that can increase a person’s risk of committing suicide. An easier way to remember them is by using the acronym “SAD PERSONAS.” 

S – SEX: Males are more likely to commit suicide than females. But it’s almost important to note that while men kill themselves four times more often, women make double the amount of attempts

A – AGE: Studies have shown that individuals ages 10 to 34 are at a higher risk of committing suicide, with suicide being the second leading cause of death for this age group. Older individuals, typically over the age of 65, are also four times more likely to commit suicide than other age groups.

D – DEPRESSED SYMPTOMS: While this isn’t always the case, individuals who are clinically depressed are more likely to commit suicide than the general population. 

P – PREVIOUS ATTEMPT: If an individual has previously attempted suicide, then their chances of trying again are increased. About 80% of suicides were preceded by previous attempts. 

E – EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE: People under the influence are at a heightened risk of committing suicide. 

R – RATIONAL THINKING LOSS: A person’s inability to think rationally might increase their likelihood of an attempt. The risk is highest in early diagnosis of a mental disorder such as schizophrenia for some individuals. 

S – SEPARATED, DIVORCED, WIDOWED: People who do not have a partner or have lost someone are in a more vulnerable state. For younger ages, it may be the loss of a first love. For older individuals, it may be a long-term partner or someone incredibly important in a person’s life. 

O – ORGANIZED PLAN OR SERIOUS ATTEMPT: When you talk to a person and they have an exact idea of how they would end their life, then the risk is logically increased. 

N – NO SOCIAL SUPPORT: Individuals who are alone or perceive themselves as being alone are at increased risk. 

A – AVAILABILITY OF LETHAL MEANS: Having access to items that are lethal increases the chances of an individual attempting suicide.

S – STATED INTENT OF AMBIVALENCE (SICKNESS, CHRONIC DISEASE): Statistics show that individuals who are already closer to the end of their life or view their situation as the terminal are more commonly suicidal. 

So What Can We Do?

Do your part in supporting and initiating healthy conversations about mental health and suicide. Talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings will help eliminate the stigmas around this serious and complex mental health issue. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends, family members, coworkers, and children if they’re okay. It could save a life. 

If you or someone you know is at risk or feeling suicidal, please use the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7 to call or chat. Their number is 1-800-273-8255. Additional resources are available below:

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