by Bridget Whitlow, LMFT
For help in the US now, please call the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Sunday, the first of September, kicks off the U.S. National Suicide Prevention month, with September 10th taking the spot for World Suicide Prevention Day. While suicide is a difficult topic to think about and discuss with others, it is terrifying when our children are struggling with it themselves. However, knowledge is power and having some facts in your back pocket provide both grounding and guidance.
The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 people die by suicide each year and for those 15 to 29 years old, it is the second leading cause of death. Research from earlier this year has found that suicide is on the rise for adolescents in the United States. Donna Ruch, Ph.D. and her colleagues reported that there began to be in uptick since 2007 for kids 10 to 19 years old in the U.S., and noticed a narrowing gap between female and male rates of suicide, with younger females using more lethal means. Another study by Oren Miron, MA and colleagues also found an increase in suicide rates but reported that there was a rise in rate for males 15 to 19 years old.
When we have a loved one that is experiencing an eating disorder, the risk of suicide is present. In a 2013 study, Emily Pisetsky, Ph.D. and her colleagues found that suicide attempts occurred more in women with any eating disorder and were highest for those that engaged in purging behavior. In her 2016 paper on Genetic Epidemiology of Eating Disorders, Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., and her colleagues identified three studies that reported an increase in risk for those experiencing an eating disorder and those that have a relative with an eating disorder.
Here are 6 things you can do:
- Don’t hesitate to talk about it – doing so does NOT increase the likelihood of it happening, and may reduce it.
- Be curious, compassionate, and resourceful.
- Learn the risk factors and warning signs.
- Refrain from using the word “committing/committed” – suicide is not a crime.
- Download this wallet card from the Lifeline & share it freely!
- Reach out for your own support – it makes a difference to have your own team at your side to give you some “oxygen,” reminders, and encouragement.
As always, trust your gut and err on the side of safety. To learn more, check out the resources below and pass them on!
CrisisTextline: Text “NEDA” to 741-741
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
International Association for Suicide Prevention: Global Crisis Centers
The Trevor Project (LGBTQ Crisis Support): 866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
Tell Japan Lifeline: 03-5774-0992
If you are a clinician who has a lost a client to suicide, the American Association of Suicidology Clinician Survivor Task Force has several resources to find support. As much shame as there may be, there is a healing grace in bringing together those that have walked in your shoes to support one another.
Bridget Whitlow, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist that provides psychotherapy for adolescent and adult individuals and families. Bridget has clinical expertise in the treatment of anxiety, eating disorders, OCD, LGBTQ, and self-criticism. She is trained in multiple treatment modalities, including family-based treatment, cognitive behavior therapy, exposure and response prevention, and compassion focused -therapy. Throughout her clinical training, Bridget has also been actively involved in research projects and worked as one of the lead clinicians at UCSD Eating Disorders Treatment and Research Program on a multi-site NIMH study that compared two types of family therapy for adolescents with anorexia. She is currently working on a sibling needs study with Kym Piekunka in order to develop needed resources for those that have (or had) a brother or sister with an eating disorder.