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How can you recognize and prevent suicide?


    Anthony Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room in France on June 8.

With the recent spate of celebrity suicides — fashion designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain — and the recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suicide rates in the United States have risen sharply over the past 20 years (half of all states saw a more than 30 percent rise), it’s a good time to ask ourselves if there’s a better way to recognize symptoms and do something before it’s too late.

Dr. Oz had Dr. John Draper, psychologist and director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, on his show discussing the alarming fact that today 1 in 6 school-age children and teens indicate they are seriously thinking about suicide; 1 in 13 will attempt it. The highest rate of increase in children was among adolescent girls. Overall, it’s the second leading cause of death among kids (behind accidents), and it’s preventable.

Suicidal behavior is not always easy to diagnose and predict, but there are certain signs to look out for.

Risk signs among adolescents

>> Lasting depression is one of the most common causes of adolescent suicide. Signs include decreased or increased appetite, lack of interest in things once enjoyable, too much or too little sleep and mood swings.

>> Anxiety disorders like anorexia and post-traumatic stress, as well as substance abuse, are behaviors that may signal suicide risk.

>> Other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder need to be diagnosed and treated with talk therapy and medications in order to avoid the risk of suicide.

>> Also anyone with a family history of suicide is at heightened risk.

>> If a youth talks about suicide, that’s a huge warning sign. However if they talk about getting help for those feelings, that’s a good sign.

Unfortunately, funding of research into prevention programs for children by the National Institute for Mental Health is down 42 percent since 2005.

Adults who take their own lives

The highest rate of suicide increase in adults was among men 40 to 64 years old, although women are catching up. Out-of-pocket therapy can cost hundreds of dollars per session, and since only 55 percent of psychiatrists accept insurance, therapy can get very expensive, very quickly.

A recent Princeton study confirmed the CDC findings that the top causes of adult suicides are failing relationships, health issues, and job and financial security. That makes long-term, pay-for-it-yourself therapy an unlikely option for many.

Diagnosis and treatment

The CDC also states that 54 percent of people who died by suicide were not known to have a mental health condition. However, according to Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, 90 percent of those who commit suicide had previous mental health issues; they were simply undiagnosed.

In addition, the CDC says there aren’t any federally funded suicide prevention programs for adults, and insurance coverage for behavioral health care often is out-of-network.

What you can do

There is always something you can try to help someone in need or yourself. Go online to Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). The Suicide Prevention Resource Center lists state-by-state resources at Offer help. Reach out for help.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

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