Suicide: A local and national problem

Guest post courtesy of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center:


As suicide becomes a growing issue, know that there are steps you can take to help someone at risk.

As International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day approaches on Nov. 22, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at the School of Public Health-Bloomington is calling attention to the problem of suicide among young adults in Indiana and nationally and amassing a collection of online resources related to suicide to help educate the public about this growing problem.

“Suicide is the ultimate consequence,” says center Deputy Director Barbara Seitz de Martinez. “Indiana is well above the national average for suicide, so it’s important that we learn as much as we can about how depression, substance abuse, and other risk factors contribute to suicide.”

As is the case nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death in Indiana for young adults ages 15-34, outnumbering homicides. Suicide is also a growing problem on college campuses. The Indiana College Substance Abuse Survey found that one in seven students had at some point thought they would be “better off dead” or had thought of “hurting themselves in some way.”

Anxiety and depression are the biggest risk factors for suicide, followed by substance abuse. Other risk factors include a family history of suicide and/or child abuse; previous suicide attempts; a history of mental disorder (especially clinical depression); feelings of hopelessness; and impulsive or aggressive tendencies.

Most people who commit suicide exhibit warning signs, including manifestations of depression, anxiety or low self-esteem; talking or writing about suicide and death; giving away personal treasures; or obtaining a lethal weapon. Other common red flags include sharply dropping grades, risky behavior, violent behavior or mood swings, and increased alcohol and other drug use. A potential or recent severe loss can trigger thoughts of suicide.

Youth and young adults experiencing perceived discrimination and the stresses of acculturation are especially at risk for suicide and suicidal thoughts. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that African American high school students in Indiana are nearly twice as likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year that resulted in an injury or harm requiring medical treatment, compared to students from other backgrounds. Rates for suicidal thoughts and attempted suicides among Indiana Hispanic female high school students are also above the national average. Indiana LGBTQ youth are vulnerable, too.

What You Can Do To Help  

  • Be alert to the warning signs and assess a person’s risk of suicide or hurting her/himself or others. If a suicide attempt seems imminent, immediately call 911.
  • Engage the person in conversation and listen nonjudgmentally, showing you care. People contemplating suicide do want help.
  • Assure the person that help is available. Provide information and encourage those at risk to seek professional counseling and to pursue self-help and support from family and friends.

For more information about suicide risk and prevention, visit the Indiana Prevention Resource Center HOME Library of e-Resources.

About the Indiana Prevention Resource Center

The center is funded, in part, by a contract with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, financially supported through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. The Indiana Prevention Resource Center is operated by the Department of Applied Health Science at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. It is affiliated with the school’s Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior.

IPRC also provides a home for the Tobacco Enforcement Program, the Screening and Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment project (SBIRT), SAT-ED (State Adolescent Treatment Enhancement and Dissemination project), and is affiliated with the Indiana Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior (IRAB).

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