Mental illness affects millions of individuals in the United States. In fact, about 47.8 billion American adults suffer from a mental illness, according to a 2018 study. Unfortunately, 60% of those individuals do not receive treatment for their mental condition. While there are many reasons that individuals do not receive mental health treatment, doing so can be extremely dangerous. When mental illness is left untreated, individuals will experience negative side-effects that tend to worsen over time. One of these includes the high rate of mental health conditions among people who attempt suicide.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health statistics, suicide is the second leading cause of death in America for individuals from 10 to 34 years old. Additionally, suicide rates have increased by 31% since 2001. As a result, suicide awareness and prevention are extremely vital in saving young lives. In order to prevent suicide from occurring, we must understand why it happens so frequently.
Luckily, mental health researchers may have found the answer. Studies have shown an undeniable link between the existence of mental illness and an individual attempting or committing suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 90% of people who die by suicide had shown signs of mental illness, while 46% had been medically diagnosed. Therefore, because mental health is the leading cause of suicide, we must prioritize mental health awareness, education, and treatment.
Mental Illnesses Commonly Associated with Suicide
As previously stated, untreated mental illness leads to severe consequences such as suicide. Being aware of the signs of common mental health conditions can help you (or a loved one) obtain treatment before a tragedy occurs.
Learn more about some of the most frequently experienced mental illnesses and how they increase the risk of suicide.
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a mood disorder that causes unavoidable and persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest or motivation. Symptoms of depression are typically severe enough to affect an individual’s ability to function during daily activities. For example, making dinner or going to the store may feel like an impossible chore. Plus, helping loved ones with depression isn’t easy to do.
When left untreated, depression can be completely incapacitating. Additionally, depression is known to cause self-harm, suicidal ideation, and in some cases, suicide. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 60% of people who die by suicide were suffering from clinical depression. However, with proper treatment and medication, individuals can overcome depression.
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental condition that causes severe mood swings. Individuals with bipolar disorder typically experience extreme emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and severe lows (depression). When individuals experience mania or depression, their ability to function and think clearly will diminish. Like major depressive disorder, this mental health condition requires therapy and medication in order to manage unwanted symptoms.
When left untreated, individuals will experience a worsening in symptoms that may lead to suicidal thoughts and ideation. In fact, studies show that at least 25-50% of patients with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at least once. In order to prevent this, individuals must work with mental health professionals to manage symptoms that affect their ability to live their lives freely.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. Common symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
One common cause of PTSD is an individual experiencing a form of sexual assault or being a member of the military. When PTSD is treated, individuals are able to recover and manage their symptoms through healthy coping mechanisms. However, when PTSD is left untreated, individuals are at a higher risk for suicide than the general population. For example, a study found that 46% of adolescent girls with PTSD from sexual abuse reported having suicidal thoughts.
Schizophrenia is defined as a long-term mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Common symptoms of schizophrenia include paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior. These symptoms make daily functioning difficult, so much so that it can be disabling.
According to studies, the lifetime risk of suicide among individuals with schizophrenia is about 5%. While this may seem low, schizophrenia is known to cause suicidal ideation and attempts at an alarming rate. However, while there is no cure for schizophrenia, suicide can be avoided through proper maintenance of symptoms and healthy lifestyle choices.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that affects the way an individual feels about themselves and others. This condition is known to cause self-esteem and image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, as well as a pattern of unhealthy relationships.
Dealing with severe self-esteem issues as well as impulsive behavior can cause suicidal thoughts, and eventually, suicide. In fact, research has shown that 75% of individuals with BPD attempt suicide at least once in their lifetime. However, when individuals with borderline personality disorder commit to therapy, medication, and symptom management – living a happy and successful life is possible.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Resources
If your friend or loved one is expressing thoughts of suicide, it is important to take them seriously. While suicide is a difficult topic to discuss, don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their plans. Additionally, it is vital that you show support by letting them know that you care, they aren’t alone, and you hear them. You should take action by suggesting them to seek professional help, or in serious cases, admit them to a mental health facility. Lastly, never leave a suicidal individual alone.
The CDC has provided these tips for individuals concerned about a suicidal loved one:
- Ask them if they are considering suicide
- Keep them safe by reducing lethal means (i.e. medications, firearms)
- Be there with them and listen to what they need
- Help them connect with ongoing support
- Stay connected and follow up with how they are doing
If you or a loved one suffers from suicidal ideation or has a plan to commit suicide, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.