When Someone Is Contemplating Suicide . . .

suicideMadison Holleran, 19, told her parents, James and Stacy, in December that she was thinking about committing suicide.[1] The University of Pennsylvania freshman’s parents did what they thought was right. They talked to her, encouraged her to see a psychiatrist and a therapist, suggested she take time off of school.1 They supported her, loved her, and tried to protect her. After winter break, while James drove Madison back to the University of Pennsylvania from their home in New Jersey, he encouraged her to think about transferring to a school closer to home.1 That was on January 11.1 He talked to her every day after that.1 On January 17, Madison took her own life.1

Suicide knows no gender, race, socioeconomic status, culture, or religion.1 According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 38,364 Americans took their own lives in 2010—that is one suicide every 13.7 minutes.1

Risk factors for suicide exist. In fact, 90 percent of people who take their own lives have a potentially treatable mental disorder at the time of their death, one that is often unrecognized and untreated.1 Other risk factors include a previous suicide attempt, a family history of suicide, a history of trauma or abuse, chronic pain, and serious medical conditions.1 Stressors include losing someone close, financial loss, trouble with the law, and bullying.1

Like Madison, people who take their own lives usually show an indication of immediate risk before their deaths.1 Madison told her parents she was thinking about killing herself.1 She felt hopeless, trapped, desperate, and lost interest in things.1

Her parents did all that they thought they could to save her.1 How to help someone contemplating suicide is something that is difficult and confusing.1

Another step to take is to check your loved one is to hospitalize them immediately.1 Aggressive treatment is needed when suicidal thoughts take over—outpatient treatment is not enough at this point.1

Here are some other ways to help:

  • Tell the person you are concerned about them.1
  • Do not be afraid to ask whether the person is considering suicide and if they have actually considered a plan. It will not push them over the edge if they were not considering it.1
  • As if the person is seeing a doctor or is taking any medicine. If so, encourage them to contact their treating physician immediately. Offer to go to the appointment with them. If not, help them find a mental health professional and make an appointment or take them to a hospital immediately.1
  • Do not argue with someone about suicide. Instead, let them know that you care, that they are not alone, and that they can get help. Do not say “You have so much to live for” or “If you kill yourself, it will hurt your family.”1
  • Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).1
  • Do not leave the person alone.1

At Madison’s funeral, her father urged people to learn from his loss.1 We can take action to prevent a suicide.1

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