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Did you know the 10th leading cause of death in the United States is suicide? There are more than 36,000 people who take their lives every year, and suicide rarely stops with the victim. The ramifications of suicide are far-reaching, often leaving an aftermath of bewilderment, devastation and sadness.

The most common question surrounding a suicide is “What happened?” From aftermath survivors to concerned friends, people typically believe there is one single event or catalyst that influenced the person to take their life. It is rarely one event though. Rarely one event that escalates, forcing an individual to take his or her life. In most cases the person has suffered long-term bouts of substance abuse, including depression with feelings of self-doubt, is directionless in life, and even has an untreated mental illness.

What are the Risk Factors for Suicide

Suicide and suicidal behavior are not normal responses to stress; many people have these risk factors, but are not suicidal. Risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin have been found in people with depression, impulsive disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in the brains of suicide victims.

More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have made a prior suicide attempt, and most have a family history suicide and mental disorder and/or substance abuse. Typically there is exposure to suicidal behavior of others around them, including family members, peers, and even media figures. It is also extremely common to come from a family of violence, including physical or sexual abuse, as well as having firearms in the house. Firearms are the method used in more than fifty percent of all suicides.

Gender Suicide Statistics

Gender differences in suicide among young people, as follows:

  • Nearly five times as many males as females ages 15 to 19 died by suicide.
  • Just under six times as many males as females ages 20 to 24 died by suicide.

Gender differences in suicide among adults, as follows:

  • Nearly four times as many males than females commit suicide.
  • Firearms, suffocation, and poison are by far the most common methods of suicide, overall. However, men and women differ in the method used. Males are more likely to use a firearm, where as females are more likely to use poison.

Suicide and Substance Abuse

Research has shown there is a strong correlation between substance abuse and suicide, and a growing body of evidence suggests that alcohol and drug abuse are second only to mental illness and other mood disorders that are considered risk factors to suicide. Many drugs, including alcohol are depressants, so it is sometimes difficult to assess if one used drugs to self-medicate their depression or if the drugs caused the depression. Alcohol alone is linked to more than twenty-five percent of suicides and forty percent are committed by substance abusers.

What To Do if You Think Someone is Suicidal

If you think someone is suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get the person to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911. Eliminate access to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including unsupervised access to medications.

Where to Get Help

While in the throes of addiction it is nearly impossible to perceive getting sober, as it is seems much larger than you. Remember though, there is help. Suicide is a permanent fix to a temporary problem. If you need help right away, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273.TALK, or 1.888.426.6086.