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The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide:

What We Know and What it Means for Schools

Understanding Suicide

Suicide is a serious public health problem that takes an enormous toll on families, friends, classmates, co-workers, and communities, as well as on our military personnel and veterans.

Over 38,000 Americans took their lives in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Suicide accounted for 12 deaths for every 100,000 people nationwide, making it the country's 10th leading cause of death, suicide continues to claim more lives each year.

Uncovering the reason for an individual suicide death is complex and challenging. What we know from research is that 90% of people who die by suicide have a potentially treatable mental disorder at the time of their death — a disorder that often has gone unrecognized and untreated.

Suicide rates vary significantly among demographic groups and in different geographic regions. This reflects the many individual, interpersonal, and environmental factors that increase vulnerability to suicide. A variety of factors also contribute to strengthening resilience.

Non-fatal suicidal behavior further swells the emotional and economic costs associated with suicide. An estimated 1 million suicide attempts occur each year, many requiring medical attention.

At the heart of the AFSP's mission is the quest to better understand why people die by suicide, and why so many others attempt to take their own lives.

Warning Signs for Suicide

In contrast to longer term risk and protective factors, warning signs are indicators of more acute suicide risk.

A person who is thinking about suicide may say so directly: "I'm going to kill myself." More commonly, they may say something more indirect: "I just want the pain to end," or "I can't see any way out."

Most of the time, people who kill themselves show one or more of these warning signs before they take action:

* Talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead
* Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun
* Talking about a specific suicide plan
* Feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
* Feeling trapped, desperate, or needing to escape from an intolerable situation
* Having the feeling of being a burden to others
* Feeling humiliated
* Having intense anxiety and/or panic attacks
* Losing interest in things, or losing the ability to experience pleasure
* Insomnia
* Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family, and others
* Acting irritable or agitated
* Showing rage, or talking about seeking revenge for being victimized or rejected, whether or not the situations the person describes seem real

Individuals who show such behaviors should be evaluated for possible suicide risk by a medical doctor or mental health professional.