Suicides rates are rising
The 2018 deaths by suicide of designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain brought a troubling trend into the spotlight. In Australia, according to the Bureau of Statistics, suicide rates have increased in the ten years to 2019 from 17.5 to 19.8 in males and from 5.0 to 6.3 in females. Reversing the trend isn’t easy, and according to Beyond Blue, everyone is different and responds differently to suicidal thought and feelings. Knowing the warning signs may help you save a life.
They may be affected by a high-profile death
There was an almost 10 per cent increase in suicides – an additional 1841 deaths – recorded in the United States in the four months following comedian Robin Williams’ death by suicide in 2014, according to a study in PLOS ONE. “That indicates just how powerful this kind of ‘contagion’ effect can be on a vulnerable person,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Elizabeth Berger. When people who may be trying to manage their depression see this person they admire taking his or her own life, they may see it as a way for them to escape their own misery. “The tragedy of Robin Williams’ death is that because he was a beloved public figure, people who were already suffering felt they had gotten permission to relieve their pain,” says clinical social worker Susan T. Lindau. “The voices decrying his death weren’t strong enough, persuasive enough, or prevalent enough to push those people experiencing suicidal thoughts to reach out for help.” If you’re having suicidal thoughts, don’t suffer in silence.
They may undergo drastic behaviour changes
“Any significant and unexplained changes in behaviour should at least be a cause for inquiry,” says clinical and forensic psychologist Dr Joel A. Dvoskin. “Significant negative changes are especially concerning.” However, behaviour changes don’t mean a person is going to kill himself, he says. “Ask empathic and respectful questions,” he recommends, adding that simply asking, “How are you doing?” is a good start. “When the person says or does anything that suggests or implies an intention to hurt himself or others, ask whether or not the person is intending to hurt himself or anyone else, stating it in the form of a question.” Doing so is neither disrespectful nor intrusive, he says.