What is Suicide?
Suicide, by definition, is fatal. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. In 2007, more than 34,000 suicides occurred in the U.S – a rate of 94 suicides per day or one suicide every 15 minutes. While suicide affects people of all ages, it is the second leading cause of death among 25-34 year olds and the third leading cause of death among 15-24 years old. High rates of suicide also exist for those who are middle-aged and elderly. Although males are nearly four times as likely to take their own lives as females, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.
While a high rate of suicide exists, more people attempt suicide than actually die. For every one suicide, there are approximately 25 attempts. In 2008 alone, 376,306 people were treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries. Of those, 163,489 were hospitalized due to self-inflicted injuries.
A correlation exists between suicide, depression, and other mental health issues, including substance abuse. Statistics suggest that many who commit suicide were under the influence at the time of death. In one study, approximately one third of those who committed suicide were positive for alcohol at the time of death and approximately 1 in 5 had evidence of opiates.
Suicide victims don't necessarily want to die. Instead, they want relief for their intense psychological pain. They often feel hopeless and that there is no solution. Fortunately, help is available for those at risk of suicide.
Warning Signs of Suicide
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
- Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities - seemingly without thinking
- Feeling trapped - like there's no way out
- Increasing alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
- Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Experiencing dramatic mood changes
- Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
Prevention strategies do exist for suicide. The most effective strategy is to identify the warning signs of suicide and to take the signs seriously. Once warning signs are identified, the individual may receive professional help, which may include medication or therapy.
Be willing to talk about suicide. Increasing public awareness through dialogue and education helps to eliminate the stigma associated with suicide, encouraging more people to seek help.
How Suicide Affects Lawyers
Lawyers are not immune to suicide. As research suggests that lawyers experience depression and substance abuse at higher rates than the general population, lawyers may be at a greater risk for suicide.
Lawyer assistance programs (LAPs) are here to support lawyers, judges, students and other legal professionals who are at risk for suicide or who know someone at risk. Contact your state or local LAP.
How to Help a Colleague Who Exhibits Warning Signs
If you believe a colleague may be at risk for suicide, encourage him/her to seek help. If you believe someone might be a harm to themselves, contact your local LAP. Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Helpline recommends the following when someone is threatening suicide:
- Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Don't dare him or her to do it.
- Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
- Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
- Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.