Suicide (self-inflicted death) occurs in all
parts of the world. Suicide causes about half of all deaths due to violence.
Approximately 1 million persons die each year worldwide from suicide. Suicide
is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 15 to 24 years in the
United States, following unintentional injuries and homicide. Suicide is often
preventable. Warning signs are often present, and individuals who talk about
killing themselves must be taken seriously. Mental illness is present in most
persons who die by suicide. Treating these mental illnesses can help to decrease
the number of deaths by suicide. Suicide affects not only the person who dies
but also his or her entire social structure—family, friends, and acquaintances.
The May 25, 2005, issue of JAMA includes a report
of surveys about suicidal thoughts and behaviors in persons living in the
Depression (especially feeling hopeless)
Bipolar illness (episodes of depression
and abnormally elevated moods)
Schizophrenia (a severe mental disorder
with disturbances of thinking, mood, and behavior)
Alcohol and other drug abuse
Family history of suicide
Previous suicide attempts
Chronic physical illness
Any person who talks about killing themselves needs help. Listening
to the individual in a nonjudgmental manner and providing emotional support
are important ways to help persons who are considering suicide. Enlisting
the help of a doctor or a mental health professional is essential. Suicide
prevention telephone lines and crisis centers have resources for friends and
family, and for the person who has signs of suicidal behavior. Removing access
to firearms may be important to protect the person thinking of suicide, and
other persons as well. Assist anyone who talks about dying and having no reason
to live to seek help immediately.
Talking to someone trained to listen to persons considering suicide
can help. Your doctor or mental health professionals in your community can
provide assistance and resources for you if you are thinking of suicide or
if anyone you know is considering suicide. For immediate help in the United
States, call the life line (800/273-8255). Outside the United States, access your local emergency service.
National Strategy for Suicide PreventionLife line: 800/273-8255http://www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/suicideprevention/
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 888/333-2377 http://www.afsp.org
International Association for Suicide Preventionhttp://www.med.uio.no/iasp/
National Institute of Mental Health 301/443-4513 http://www.nimh.nih.gov
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. A Patient Page on suicide in older persons was published in the March
3, 2004, issue; one on adolescent suicide was published in the December 26,
2001, issue; and one on depression was published in the June 18, 2003, issue.
Sources: American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for
Suicide Prevention, International Association for Suicide Prevention, National
Institute of Mental Health, National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, World
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share
with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval.
To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
TOPIC: MENTAL HEALTH
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Suicide. JAMA. 2005;293(20):2558. doi:10.1001/jama.293.20.2558