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The Most Common Questions About Suicide, Answered

Find out what the top questions about suicide are, along with detailed answers
Top questions about suicide answered

For Suicide Prevention Month, we are answering some of the most frequently asked questions related to suicide.

1. What is suicide?

Suicide is when a person causes their own death. Suicide may be a deliberate intentional decision, or it may happen by accident.

2. Why do people consider suicide?

People have many reasons for wanting to end their lives. Some of these include:

  • Severe depression and emotional pain that feels too difficult to endure.

  • Episodes of psychosis, such as hearing malevolent voices, may lead to a person contemplating suicide.

  • Impulsive, drug-induced behavior can distort thoughts and emotions, sometimes compelling a person to suddenly decide to end their life.

  • Some people attempt suicide as a “cry for help” to let others know that something is wrong. Although the person does not actually want to die, they may accidentally complete the suicide attempt.

  • A person may think about suicide after being diagnosed with a terminal or degenerative illness, like cancer.

3. How many people complete suicide* each year?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics reports that 14 out of every 100,000 people aged 15-64 died by suicide in the United States in 2017.

This is a 33% increase from the 1999 rate.

Suicide affects all ages, races, and socioeconomic groups. It is the second most common cause of death among children and young adults aged 10-24 years in the United States.

4. What is assisted suicide?

Assisted suicide is when a person commits suicide with another person’s help. More specifically, physician-assisted suicide is when a person with a terminal or degenerative disease chooses to end their life with the help of a physician, usually to shorten their suffering.

5. Is suicide illegal?

In the United States, no individual state specifically lists suicide as a crime. Assisted suicide is legal or defensible to some extent in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, and Montana. However, the practice remains highly controversial.

6. Is suicide a sin? What does the bible say about suicide?

Most branches of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism forbid suicide. Other religions, such as Buddhism, have a negative view of suicide but do not expressly forbid it. The Christian Bible and Jewish texts do not specifically prohibit suicide, but most forms of Christianity and Judaism forbid suicide on the grounds that it violates “Thou shalt not kill,” one of the Ten Commandments.

7. How do you prevent suicide?

If you are concerned about a loved one, watch for warning signs such as intense sadness or hopelessness, preoccupation with death, social withdrawal, or giving away possessions. Privately ask direct, non-judgmental questions about these warning signs.

Many people do not want to talk about their suicidal thoughts because they are worried about how others will react. Calmly encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings, letting them know you care and want to help.

Suicide is a tragic event that can cause long-lasting effects in families, communities, and peer groups. If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts or planning a suicide attempt, please urgently contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The National Institute of Mental Health also has additional information about suicide.

For more information on crisis support, click here. For non-crisis support, join our empathetic community, chat with a trained emotional support listener, or start affordable online therapy today.

*We are using the term ‘complete suicide’ or ‘die by suicide’ when we refer to someone who has taken their own life. Terms such as ‘commit suicide’ are used less often, as we attempt to move away from accusatory language and talk about mental health.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, or, to reach the Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741741. In the event of any emergency, be sure to dial 911.


Posted: 10 September 2019
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Emily Jacobs

Emily Jacobs is a freelance healthcare writer based in Toledo, Ohio.

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