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Josh, now 25, thought his first year of college was going to be the best year of his life. Instead, he began to feel lethargic and numb. Getting out of bed each day seemed impossible. Feeling tired and disengaged, his self-esteem declined, and he avoided activities and hobbies he used to enjoy.

Josh began to feel the world might be a better place without him. When he had thoughts about ways to end his life, Josh became scared and knew he needed help.

He reached out to his family and a few close friends whom he trusted. They were very supportive and helped Josh start treatment with a mental health professional. Acknowledging how he was feeling and speaking up were critical steps in Josh’s ability to cope with depression.

Major depression is a common medical condition that affects 6% of American adults. It’s more common in women than men, although experts believe that’s because women are more likely to get treatment.

Depression is a serious risk factor for suicide, so it’s very important to get treatment. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States and second leading cause of death among individuals between ages 10-34. Suicide has devastating consequences on individuals, families, schools/workplaces and communities.

Anxiety is another condition that often goes hand-in-hand with depression and can contribute to risk for suicide. Anxiety disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are all conditions that pose an increased risk for suicide.

What to watch for

If you have a friend or loved one who may be depressed, and who you suspect may be at risk for suicide, there are signs to look for. Someone may be thinking about suicide if he or she:

  • Talks about feeling anxious, empty, hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talks about feeling trapped or feels that there are no solutions
  • Feels unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
  • Talks about being a burden to others
  • Uses alcohol or drugs more often
  • Withdraws from or says goodbye to family and friends
  • Shows rage or talks about seeking revenge
  • Takes risks that could lead to death, such as reckless driving
  • Gives away important possessions

In many cases, there are no “warning” signs but there are conditions that we know place people at more risk for suicide:

  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with emotions, relationship, pressure
  • A history of mental health illness
  • Social isolation
  • Trouble maintaining meaningful relationships or friendships
  • Recent break-ups
  • A history of neglect or trauma, including physical and/or sexual, victim or aggressor of bullying in school, work or social setting.
  • Panic attacks/panic disorder

Josh is fortunate that he had friends and family who helped him get treatment. Not everyone is so lucky. You might be the difference in helping someone get needed help! If you or someone you know displays any of these warning signs, particularly if there is a change in the behavior or a new behavior, get help as soon as possible.

When you’re in crisis

Help is available, even when everything around you feels hopeless. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support, 24/7. Chat with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online, call 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.