August 11, 2014 brought suicide back into our awareness when Robin Williams took his own life that day. The following day his death was on every social media medium around the world. Since then there have been teenage suicides, which have affected us locally here in Indianapolis. My hope is that as you read this, it will continue to raise awareness in our community about suicide and its prevention.

There is HOPE.

There is HELP.

When I lived in the Bay Area in California I worked on the suicide and crisis center hotline in Santa Clara and facilitated a Survivors of Suicide group. Those I spoke to and worked with in person have forever impacted me. All of us go through struggles at one point or time in our lives. It is remembering that it is just that…a moment in time and it will pass. The intense emotions in THAT moment do decrease and talking to someone about what is going on in your life CAN help.

The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, reported in 2012 that, “There were 38,364 suicides in 2010 in the United States–an average of 105 each day.” The CDC reported in 2011 (WISQARS) that in Indiana:

  • Suicide was the SIXTH leading cause of death in the age group 10-14. It was ranked SECOND in the United States.
  • Suicide was the SECOND leading cause of death in the age groups 15-24 and 25-34. The same for the Unites States.

The CDC also reported in 2011 (WISQARS) that in the United States suicide was the:

  • FOURTH leading cause of death in the age groups 35-44
  • FIFTH leading cause of death in the age group 45-54
  • EIGHTH leading cause of death in the age group 55-64

Below are seven basic risks factors, which can be used for judging a person-at-risk’s potential for completing suicide.

  1. Resources- does the person-at-risk have family, friends, organizations or places they are connected to
  2. Prior suicide behavior– the person-at-risk’s history of previous suicidal gestures and attempts, including “modeling” by close family members.
  3. Current suicide plan– the degree of planning and the specificity of details in the person-at-risk’s plan for the suicidal death.
  4. Symptoms– distressing personal responses to stressors including:
    • Emotional (mood fluctuations, crying spells);
    • Intellectual (slowed, diffuse or constricted thinking);
    • Behavioral (fatigue, withdrawal, agitation);
    • Biological (eating, sleep, sex habits);
    • Ongoing poorly adaptive ways of coping (substance abuse)
  5. Stress– the stressors, as perceived by the person-at-risk, which they feel are precipitating the current suicidal situation.
  6. Sex– males complete suicide more often than females. Females attempt more often than males.
  7. Age-younger vs older

Below are warning signs or concerns for a person who is at risk of suicide.

  • Both direct or indirect statements about suicide or death
    • Direct statement: “I want to kill myself”
    • Indirect statement: “You’d be better off without me around.”
  • Previously attempted suicide
  • Family history of suicide
  • Seems preoccupied or obsessed with death and dying either through drawing, writing or talking about it.
  • Depression-when a cluster of these symptoms last for several weeks
    • Sleep disturbance-too much or too little
    • Weight changes
    • Crying spells
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Feeling bored or listless
    • Withdrawal from family, friends and social activities
    • Loss of energy
    • Sudden drop in school performance
    • Neglect of personal appearance
  • Making final arrangements, such as giving items away, going on a vacation, seems happier suddenly, etc.
  • Behavior changes-becomes withdrawn or excessively aggressive
  • Recent accidents or “close calls”

You can’t make someone commit suicide by talking about it. Actually talking about what is occurring in the person’s life or their feelings can be helpful. At the suicide and crisis hotline one slogan was “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” If the person is in immediate danger please call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room.

For teenagers:

If you are worried your friend will be mad at you for telling a trusted adult, a parent or school counselor, that is much better than your friend no longer being alive. Please tell someone if you are concerned about a friend.

For parents/adults:

If your child or teenager or loved one is struggling with the warning signs listed above please seek professional help. There is no shame in needing help or extra support. It takes courage to ask for help.

Resources for Suicide Awareness and Support

St Vincent Crisis Hotline (Indianapolis) 317-338-4800 or 800-872-2210

Suicide Prevention Crisis Hotline 800-273-TALK (8255)

Survivors of Suicide

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Friends for survival

If you or your teenager are struggling with depression or anxiety please contact Nicole Burgess LMFT.

Nicole Burgess is a licensed marriage and family therapist located in Indianapolis, IN. She works with children, adolescents, adults and families who struggle with anxiety, depression, trauma or life transitions. She serves from Carmel, Fishers, and Lawrence to all of Indiana due to virtual therapy.