Kate Spade's Tragic Death: Warning Signs to Look for If You Are Concerned Someone is Suicidal
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 45,000 Americans taking their own lives each year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
At age 55, Spade was just one year removed from the 45 to 54-year-old age group, which has the highest suicide rate — 19.72 for every 100,000 Americans — in the country. The 55 to 64 age group is the third highest, at 18.71 as of 2016.
Dr. Kevin Gilliland, Psy.D., tells PEOPLE there are several signs to look for if you believe someone you know may be or become suicidal.
“It is really difficult for most people to watch someone struggling with feelings of depression or hopelessness about life,” Gilliland says. “If you fear that a loved one is struggling with life and they just ‘aren’t themselves’, talk to them. Try to listen more than you talk and just be curious about the change you have seen in them.”
Gilliland says people can sound or look hopeless, talk about insomnia or sleeping all day, seem anxious, or seem very different than how you have experienced them.
“It’s not uncommon for people that feel that way to increase their consumption of alcohol or drugs, more than their normal use,” he says. “Significant stressful life changes sometimes come before feelings of despair, things like a problem in their career, the end of a marriage, or a physical condition are often seen in people that think of ending their life.”
Other signs include loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, gaining or losing a significant amount of weight, and giving away prized possessions or tidying up personal affairs.
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Gilliland says although some people believe asking someone if they have suicidal thoughts may give them the idea, he says that’s not the case.
“Talking saves lives. Ask if they have had the thought and let them know that it’s not unusual for people that ‘feel like they do or are going through what they are’ to have those thoughts,” he says. “Most people mention something to friends, physicians, or their religious circle. They may talk about it in passing, give things to other people, or talk about feeling hopeless about their current situation. People closest to the person, family or life-long friends, often know that the person had been struggling.”
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, suicide is at its highest rate in 30 years, and that is especially true for women between the ages of 45 and 64. Between 1999 and 2014, the rate of suicide for that age group increased by 63 percent.