September 1st marked the start of National Suicide Prevention Month. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each day, roughly 123 Americans die by suicide. Every 12 minutes, there is a death by suicide in the US.
We, in the field of eating disorder treatment, are all too familiar with the sobering statistics for suicide rates in eating disorder sufferers. The suicide rate among individuals with eating disorders is higher than in the general population. In fact, suicide is the most common cause of death for individuals with eating disorders. Further, rates of death by suicide among individuals with EDs are elevated compared to other mental health disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (Chesney et al., 2014).
The following are some warning signs that someone may be at risk for suicide. For this list and additional resources visit www.save.org
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
- Preoccupation with death.
- Suddenly happier, calmer.
- Loss of interest in things one cares about.
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
- Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
- Giving things away, such as prized possessions.
Note: If someone is in a psychiatric emergency they should go to their nearest emergency room, call 911, and/or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you or a loved one feel down, hopeless or depressed, here is a free, easy to use screening tool for depression: https://save.org/about-suicide/mental-illness-and-suicide/depression/
Recognizing the symptoms of depression early and connecting with the right treatment is essential. About 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder – like depression, bi-polar, substance abuse disorder or eating disorder – at the time of their death. Treating the underlying illness is essential to prevent death by suicide.
The vast majority of people who struggle with clinical depression can be treated successfully with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Where to go for help:
- Primary care is a great place to start. Doctors can help with referrals to mental health specialists. In some cases, primary care doctors will prescribe anti-depressant medication without referring out.
- Mental health providers like social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, nurse practitioners… Psychology Today has a robust treatment finder where you can research providers in your area.
- Community health centers often have a variety of specialized resources and typically will accommodate those with limited financial resources.
- Hospitals and medical schools conducting research sometimes offer free evaluation and treatment for those participating in research studies.
- The emergency room of any hospital is the first stop for anyone who is actively suicidal and at risk of immediate harm. 911 can be called any time, anywhere if a life is at risk.
When the Eating Disorder Client is Suicidal. (2015, October 01). Retrieved from https://www.edcatalogue.com/when-the-eating-disorder-client-is-suicidal/
Eating Disorders and Suicide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-for-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-and-suicide
Edward Chesney, Guy M Goodwin, Seena Fazel. World Psychiatry. 2014 Jun; 13(2): 153–160. Published online 2014 Jun 2. doi: 10.1002/wps.20128