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As I’m sure you can imagine, those with depression are more likely to attempt suicide, but do you know just how prevalent suicidal thoughts and attempts are? Those with mental health issues are approximately 10 times as likely to attempt suicide as those without mental health disorders. According to NAMI.org, approximately 41,000 people take their own lives each year in the United States! Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in adults and the 3rd leading cause of death in children and young adults. Telling someone that they are loved and would be leaving behind so many loved ones if they kill themselves seems to be the right thing to do to support people when they are in such distress, but in fact, it is not that helpful. People who are in the depths of depression sometimes truly believe they would be helping others if they were dead…they would no longer be a burden in their minds. The brain of someone who has suicidal thoughts does not see the negative effects of suicide, but sees the positives in them dying. It seems so backwards to those that do not suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. So what can someone do to help someone dealing with these thoughts? First – know the warning signs. When people talk about suicide or even state things like “things would be so much better if I weren’t here” are more obvious signs. Other signs to look for include those with depression – isolation, withdrawal, writing about death, etc. It potentially becomes more serious when people who have been depressed all of a sudden feel a sense of calm – it is not uncommon that when people suffering from depression suddenly feel calm and at peace, they have made a decision to end their lives. Furthermore, when they start giving away their possessions, saying good bye to loved ones, getting their affairs in order – these are signs to look for. There could be other risk factors to look for such as suicide in the family (there is evidence that the risk of suicide increases with family history of suicide), substance abuse, age (adolescent to young adult and elderly are at higher risk), gender (males are more likely to succeed while women are more likely to attempt without success). Mental illness, trauma histories and constant stress are other risk factors. If you see any of these signs or risk factors, it is absolutely ok to ask the person if they are feeling suicidal. If someone is not suicidal, asking them about it will NOT put the thought in their head. It is safe and a good idea to ask them about it. Be supportive; listen to them. It can be helpful to talk about going to the hospital with them and trying to get them to go on their own. Get your own support – again look at NAMI’s website for support groups. Helping someone with severe depression and suicidal thoughts can be difficult. Don’t tell them what they would be throwing away or leaving behind. Instead validate that they are feeling miserable right now and help them get help. Always take them seriously – even someone who has had several unsuccessful attempts is looking for help, they are generally not looking for attention. Those who have had several unsuccessful attempts are at increased risk because they may succeed unintentionally. Help them get the support and help they need while ensuring you are getting the support you need as well. Suicide is a preventable health condition that we all need to give proper attention to.