Studying data can tell both a lot and surprisingly little. Through it, researchers have discovered that men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women, yet 75 percent of all nonfatal suicide attempts are committed by females. Ninety percent of those who took their own lives in 2010 were white, with the rates greatest among Americans 85 and older.
Most significant, perhaps, is that research documented by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, or AFSP, shows the connection between suicide and mental illness.
Of those that took their own lives, 90 percent had a mental illness at the time of their death. While there's no single cause to the complex issue, depression remains the most common psychological disorder associated with suicide. More than two-thirds of those who kill themselves are considered depressed. Other mood and personality disorders as well as substance use disorders also may play a role.
Still the numbers can't explain the reasons why people make the decision to do it. Nor can the data alone necessarily tell the tale of how to prevent it.
That's where local mental health, government and nonprofit organizations come in.
As the Clinical Director for LifeSpring Health Systems, Marta Myszak has studied and treated mental health issues in Southern Indiana, including depression and suicidal thoughts. Through the years, she and others in the medical community have gathered information that could warn friends and family members someone close to them may be thinking about taking their own life.
These warning signs may include one or more of the following: changes in eating and/or sleeping habits; social withdraw; becoming less active in beloved activities; neglect in self-care; increased substance use; overly emotional behavior such as excessive crying or rowdiness; and tying up loose ends.
Not all of those who die by suicide communicate their intentions to self-harm. But nearly two-thirds of all cases do exhibit some signs, according to the AFSP. The knowledge of these signs can allow medical help to be found before an attempt can be made.