A: According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the simple answer is no. In fact, studies show that people do not start thinking about suicide just because someone asks them about it. If you suspect someone you love may be considering harming him/herself, you should ask and communicate your concern. Sometimes people who are considering suicide may not disclose it because they don’t want to be stopped. Therefore, it’s best to share your concerns with other loved ones, or people such as teachers, a doctor, friends or family and other mental health professionals.
Q: What is the relationship between substance abuse and suicide?
A: According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a growing body of evidence suggests that alcohol and drug abuse are second only to depression and other mood disorders when it comes to risk factors for suicide. For example, in one study, alcohol and drug abuse disorders were associated with a six-fold increase in the risk of suicide attempts. There are many different risk factors for suicide, and drugs, including opiates go hand and hand with mental health disorders and an increase is use or abuse may be another indicator.
For more information and a white paper that better explains the link, please check out this resource from SAMHSA.
Q: I know someone who committed suicide, but he didn’t even seem depressed. I don’t understand.
A: Approximately 90% of all people who die by suicide suffer from a mental illness, most often depression. Although depression is one of the greatest risk factors for suicide, not everyone who is depressed may act out in a manner that would indicate to family and friends that he/she is indeed depressed. For example, instead of being sad, withdrawn or tearful, a person may be angry, irritable, moody or anxious. In addition, not everyone who commits or attempts suicide is depressed. Drug and alcohol abuse and even eating disorders may contribute and increase the risk for suicide.
Q: How do you know if someone is just trying to get attention or if they really mean they want to die?
A: The short answer is that you can’t tell. Threatening suicide may be a cry for help in which, even if the person doesn’t intend to die, may indicate that there still are serious problems for which he/she deserves compassion and concern – and professional help. And mistakes happen. Even people who don’t intend to die can overdose or make an error which can lead to his/her death.
Bottom line: Threatening suicide is a clear sign that something is wrong. If someone you know is saying they really want to die by suicide, your only choice is to take them very seriously. This person needs empathy, compassion and a life line to help. These situations can be complicated, so remember you are not alone. It’s best to err on the side of caution and get professional help.
And remember, if danger is imminent, call 9-1-1 or crisis services in Erie County immediately at 716-834-3131.