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Suicide: What it is and what to look for.

Suicide: What it is and what to look for.

by, Synergy eTherapy Staff Writer

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. 


With the heartbreaking news of recent suicides from Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Avicii, to older stories of Robin Williams and Kurt Cobain, the news never gets easier to hear and the same thoughts linger through the heads of fans and loved ones alike, “I had no idea they were so unhappy.” And yes, while Depression is the #1 risk factor in suicide cases caused by mental illness, it is not the only one.


Suicide facts and mental illness:

First, let’s break down the basics. Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, taking the lives of approximately 43,000 Americans each year. The rate of death by suicide has increased by 30% since 1999 alone. About 90% of people who suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death (some are undiagnosed).

Depression is the top risk factor, but there are various other mental health disorders that can contribute to suicide, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. (

Non-mental health related risk factors:

Let’s be clear, not ALL suicides or suicide attempts come from the mentally ill. Other risk factors include:

  • incarceration
  • substance abuse
  • previous suicide attempts
  • poor job security/being unhappy with job
  • being diagnosed with a serious medical condition (ie, cancer or HIV)
  • history of sexual or physical abuse
  • family history of suicide
  • men (while women for more likely to attempt suicide, men are 4x as likely to die from suicide)
  • being under age 24 or above age 45
  • bullying


Suicide in young adults:

“Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents and homicide. It’s also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.” ( Nearly 60% of all teen suicides in the US are by use of a gun.

The Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” has caused much controversy with its raw and all-too-real tale of a high school student whose struggle with bulling ultimately led her to take her own life, beginning with first-hand accounts of each of the “reasons/bullies”. With the shows controversy, came a great deal of discussion on the topic of teen suicide and bullying.

Writers Neil Marr and Time Field even coined the term “Bullycide” as a definition for death by suicide caused by bullying. An estimated 7% of high school students attempt suicide (CDC), and a study found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying, with teen girls aged 10-14 at greatest risk.

According to ABC News, nearly 30% of students are either victims of bullies or bullies themselves. A staggering 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because they are scared of being bullied! LGBTQ youth are at 2-4x greater risk for suicide attempts caused by bullying then their heterosexual peers.

When to step in:

Celebrity suicides, social/media coverage, and even TV shows and movies that bring suicide into light, while tragic, also bring awareness. And with awareness, comes knowledge. While most people suffering from thoughts of suicide will keep those thoughts to themselves, below are a few observable signs to look for as risk factors in an attempt for suicide (

  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings


Other risk factors that may seem a bit more obvious include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others


To talk or not to talk about suicide:

A lot of people worry that talking about suicide will “bring” someone to want to die by suicide. Research has found that this is in fact not true. The opposite seems to be more accurate in that talking about it can lessen the isolation that people who do think about suicide can have and it does not create the thought in someone who doesn’t already have those thoughts or desires.

Take away message:

Ask. Listen. Watch. See. Talk. Life can be hard. This is a fact. It can also be beautiful as we learn how to cope and move through times of challenge. Be there for yourself. Be there for others. Be kind. Show love. Simple messages but they can be hard to implement. Just remember that everyone, no matter their financial status, popularity or looks are all going through things that you can’t see.. Let’s support one another to the best of our abilities. There are places to go for help, numbers to call to talk, and resources to give to those you love.


Synergy eTherapy was a part of a local news story on suicide and how our ability to offer telehealth services to anyone in an entire state we are have licensed therapists (meaning, by phone and video) can improve access to needed mental health treatment. Find this video here on KARE 11 News.


If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.


Dr. Lisa is the founder of Synergy eTherapy and Licensed Psychologist in MN and NY.

To schedule your FREE consultation with her, please click HERE.

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