Suicide: The silent signs

Alabama suicide prevention hotline

At this very moment, someone you know may be suffering in silence.

Suicide is an unexpected, silent killer, because many can't detect others' inner turmoil. Since 1999, suicide rates have risen more than 30% in half the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recognizing the warning signs, when someone is keeping their thoughts and feelings to themselves, is becoming a critical part of the suicide prevention discussion.

Did you know one person will die by suicide every 13 minutes in the U.S.? Globally, the toll is even higher, with one person dying by suicide every 40 seconds.

It's important for those struggling with suicidal thoughts to understand they are not alone.

A suicide prevention coordinator at Birmingham's Crisis Center told ABC 33/40's Patrick Thomas the signs can be hard to see, even when they're right in front of you.

Given recent celebrity suicides, namely those of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, the uncomfortable topic has been pushed to the forefront of the everyone's mind.

After years of silence, it must be addressed for the greater good, Suicide Prevention Coordinator Abby Litovsky believes.

Litovsky says, "We didn't talk about suicide. You didn’t even say the word suicide. The word was taboo.”

But the topic many try to avoid has become nearly unavoidable, as suicide continues to claim the lives of family members, friends, and public figures.

There were nearly 45,000 suicides in 2016, according to the CDC.

"Suicide doesn't discriminate. The person sitting next to you in class or your coworker…or the person in traffic with you, [could be] fighting a tough battle," Litovsky says.

Litovsky explains the warning signs are often silent. Self-isolation, giving away favorite possessions, apathy towards interests, and even an unusual purchase like a gun signs that lurk under the surface. "So if you have someone, who has never had a gun or never had an interest in guns is all of a sudden buying a gun, that’s something to be concerned about," she explains.

CDC data shows Alabama has seen a 20% suicide rate increase over a two-decade span. Litovsky interprets the data to mean “we’re still missing parts" of the prevention puzzle.

Most importantly, Litovsky urges people to trust their gut. Life changes like a job loss, bad breakup, or death of a loved one can wreak havoc on a person's emotional state.

"If you notice some small [behavior] changes, it never hurts to just say 'Hey i’m thinking about you. I wanted to make sure you’re ok'. Those small check-ins can be life savers.”

If you know anyone who needs help, including yourself, call the Crisis Center's 24 hour line at 205-323-7777 or the national line at 1-800-273-talk. You're not alone.

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