10 Editor's Pick
June 12, 2018

Suicide doesn’t Discriminate: 6 Warning Signs that could Save someone you Love.

Last Tuesday morning, we woke to news that designer Kate Spade had hung herself—with a scarf.

By Friday morning, the news was covering Anthony Bourdain’s suicide by hanging. As I combed the articles and updates for suicide resources, I found most of them lacking. In many cases, the juicy, morbid details took center stage over the more important topic of discussion—where to get help.

The deaths of these two individuals are devastating—not because they were prominent and successful (although they certainly were both)—but because they were two people suffering immense pain who felt that they had nowhere else to turn. Anyone reading about the suicides should have information on where to go for help, should they need it.

Because, guess what? Suicidal people read about suicide. My husband completed suicide by train in Dana Point several years ago. He had never been diagnosed with mental illness, but—unbeknownst to me—had been exhibiting the warning signs of suicide for months. Those warning signs included a preoccupation with death and suicide.

What I understand now is that suicide, much like mental illness, does not discriminate. My husband, along with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, seemed to have it all: a great career and healthy relationships. And yet all three tragically chose to end their lives. And unfortunately, they aren’t anomalies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide rates have increased by 25 percent across the United States over the last two decades—and more than half of those who died by suicide had never been diagnosed with a mental health condition. With 45,000 lives lost to suicide in 2016 alone, this is now a critical mental health crisis.

Americans as a whole, and specifically our youth, are in drastic need of education and information. Rather than reporting morbid details, we need relevant, tactical information on suicide and the resources available to anyone who needs help. Andy Spade, Kate’s estranged husband, said that there were no warning signs. The thing is, those warning signs are easily overlooked by those not educated on them—as I was not when my husband needed me to be. The bottom line is that the average person just doesn’t know all the risk factors and warning signs for suicide.

So how can we fight this growing epidemic? We need to cut the stigma associated with mental illness. My husband never wanted to “disappoint” people, including me, by talking about his struggles. Kate Spade feared injuring her brand by seeking help. But illness is illness, whether it’s cancer or diabetes or depression or any other number of mental illnesses. Education is the key to removing that stigma and helping those in pain.

Since my husband’s death, I’ve made it my life’s mission to educate young people, along with their teachers and parents, about suicide. To help yourself or someone you love, get familiar with the warning signs for suicide:

Suicide warning signs:

Talking about it. The single most common warning sign for suicide is talking about it. If someone you know talks frequently about death, or worse, suicide, take it seriously.

Engaging in reckless behavior. There’s a reason they call it a “death wish.” Reckless behavior could be a sign that your friend or loved one wants to die.

Losing interest in hobbies or favorite pastimes. Often, people who are deeply depressed or engaging in suicidal thoughts stop finding pleasure in their favorite pastimes.

Giving things away. If your friend or loved one seems to be unloading a lot of his or her possessions—particularly those he or she values, that could be a sign of suicide.

Visits or calls to “say goodbye.” The conversation could be subtle, but when someone you love seems to be bidding farewell to family and friends, you should take this action seriously.

Alarming comments. If your friend or loved one frequently makes comments about feeling hopeless, wanting out, or that the world would be better off without him or her, this could be a sign of suicide.

Risk factors for suicide:

Suicide affects every demographic, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or background. That said, there are several factors that make someone more likely than another to complete suicide. Those risk factors include:

• Clinical depression
• Previous suicide attempts
• Association to others who have completed suicide
• History of physical or sexual abuse
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Chronic illness, including chronic pain

Suicide is tragic. Doing nothing about it is unforgivable.

If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or know someone exhibiting warning signs, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.



author: Kristi Hugstad

Image: Twitter

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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Stephanie Steele Jul 12, 2019 10:01am

I lost my aunt to suicide when I was in high school. My grandma, her mom, had passed the year before, so she hung around with my family a lot more. We were all so busy with everything that I was involved in that we couldn’t tell if anything was wrong. I couldn’t, anyway. I was 16, and didnt know as much about this as I do now. I still love her and think about her all the time, though. Makes me worry when my boyfriend is having an off day, that unfollow him around, keeping a close eye on him.

Ashleigh Warford May 15, 2019 3:42pm

I wish that I had known the signs of suicide, but I was only 16. My beloved brother, Steve, was 20. I felt something was different that day when he asked me to help him prepare for an overnight fishing trip. Our older brother, 22, had died in a horrendous car crash six months earlier 1969 exactly one year after his discharge from the army, where he had seen war and devastation. Shortly after that Steve got his draft orders, and his girlfriend left him. He was extra loving and attentive to me that day. Was he trying to tell me something? I’ll never know. Our father found him the next day by the pond in his car with a hose connected to the exhaust pipe. He was dying despite the CPR and rush to the hospital. My father also had missed the signs leading up to that. My dad had a heart attack within a year. I still have PTSD. Survivors guilt is another thing to be aware of.

jenisworld22 Jan 27, 2019 3:19pm

My brother Roger hanged himself on Boxing Day.

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Kristi Hugstad

Kristi Hugstad is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, trained in all forms of loss including loss of career, relationships, and death, but with special emphasis on issues related to suicide. In 2014, Kristi began facilitating grief recovery workshops for groups and individual therapy. She has quickly become an in-demand public speaker about suicide prevention and grief for schools and civic groups throughout Southern California.

Kristi’s writing has appeared in a number of newspapers and media outlets including The Huffington Post. She has a robust social media presence on Facebook, where she has more than 9,000 followers. For more information on grief and suicide, visit her website.