Suicide and Domestic Violence: How You can Help

By: Meghan Mausteller

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States with more than 44,000 Americans dying by suicide each year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

With it being National Suicide Prevention Month, it’s imperative to continue the conversation on how we can bring those numbers down. And to do that, you have to look at the reasons why people commit suicide.

While there is no single cause of suicide, there are various factors that can increase a person’s risk for considering and attempting suicide. Experiencing domestic violence, both as a child and later in life, is one of those factors.

In fact, Domestic Shelters reported that as many as 23 percent of domestic violence survivors have attempted suicide, while only 3 percent of people with no history of domestic violence have attempted suicide. Other suicide risk factors closely linked to domestic violence are being female, having low socioeconomic status, lacking education, being unemployed and being married and not working outside the home.

This month, take some time to learn about some warning signs and find out how you can help your loved ones.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Suicide?

Suicide often occurs when external factors and stressors exceed a person’s ability to cope. Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse can significantly increase a person’s risk of suicide. Survivors of domestic violence are at risk for experiencing many of these mental health risk factors.

The first recognizable sign that someone might be considering suicide is a change in behavior or personality.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reports that people at risk for attempting suicide will likely exhibit one or more of the following signs, either verbally or through their actions and behaviors:

  • Expressing feelings of being a burden
  • Having no reason to live
  • Talking about wanting to die or killing themselves
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Lacking interest in activities
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Searching for ways to kill themselves (looking online; buying a gun)

They might also display moods out of the ordinary for their personality like depression, anxiety, irritability and rage.

How Do I Start The Conversation?

The first thing you can do if you are concerned for a loved one is speak up. Let them know you have noticed some changes in their behavior and you are worried for their well being. If they are feeling worthless or unloved, letting them know you care can mean a lot. You are also offering yourself as a support system and letting them know you are a safe person to come to for help.

If you don’t know how to initiate the conversation, HelpGuide.org recommends starting off with statements like, “I’ve noticed some changes in you lately and I wanted to know how you’re doing,” or “I wanted to check in with you. You haven’t seemed like yourself lately.”

From there, you can ask some of the following questions:

  • “When did you first start feeling like this?”
  • “Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
  • “How can I best support you?”
  • “Have you thought about getting help?”

While having the conversation, make sure to be yourself, be sympathetic, take them seriously and listen.

You can also help connect them to support groups and other available community resources either through mental health facilities or domestic violence shelters.

Where Can I Find More Information?

Suicide is a sad reality, but, in many cases, it can be prevented.

You can find more information on suicide and statistics by visiting the websites for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text “GO” to 741741 to find out what resources are available in your area.

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