The recent suicides of two Parkland High School students and a father of a Sandy Hook Elementary School student are yet another reminder for all of us to be more vigilant about looking for warning signs of mental distress that could lead to suicide.

In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. Despite this alarming statistic, and the number of high-profile suicides in the last year, communities across the nation are still struggling to identify individuals with mental health needs and connect them to treatment before it’s too late.

Undiagnosed or untreated depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions are often at the root of suicidal behavior. Getting help for these behaviors will include addressing the underlying cause of the individual’s feelings.

Suicidal thoughts or behaviors can be triggered by stress or trauma (sexual, physical or emotional).

Individuals who are suicidal may exhibit the following warning signs:

  • Talk about wanting to die and being a burden to others
  • Feeling of hopelessness and sadness lasting two weeks or more
  • Withdrawal from activities
  • Isolation from family members and friends
  • High-risk and reckless behaviors (including excessive alcohol and drug consumption)

In addition, individuals who are contemplating suicide may seem preoccupied with death or preparations for their own death. 

“If a loved one is showing any of these warning signs, talk to them immediately about what you are observing and how they are feeling,” said Marissa Leslie, MD, a psychiatrist at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. “It’s important to provide sensitive, non-judgmental and compassionate support.”

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are unlikely to go away without psychiatric intervention and treatment.

How to Get Help

If you or a loved one has thoughts of harming themselves, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. There are several types of treatment options available, including inpatient and outpatient care, depending on the level of need. Suicidal behavior can be managed with therapy or medication or a combination of both.

Marissa Leslie, MD

Marissa Leslie, MD

Marissa Leslie, MD, is the Department Chair of Psychiatry for Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.

Struggling with feelings of prolonged anxiety, hopelessness and sadness? Call 800-204-8600 for a mental health consultation.